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Solar-power generation sets record nationwide, report says

A solar farm located on a portion of

A solar farm located on a portion of the DeLalio Sod Farm in Shoreham is seen on Monday, Jan. 18, 2016. Long Island added a record 11,2000 total solar-power systems in 2015. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

New solar-power generation set a national record in 2015, topping the capacity of new natural gas-fired-power-plants for the first time, according to a research report Monday.

Meanwhile, new wind-energy facilities topped both solar and natural gas plant capacity, according to the report by Boston-based GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Assn. Fossil-fuel plants still make up the lion’s share of U.S. energy production, however.

New York, led by explosive growth on Long Island, ranked among the top five states in the country in solar power additions in 2015, jumping from seventh place in 2014 and ninth in 2013.

“We set a new record in the number of net-metered solar installations in 2015,” said PSEG spokesman Jeff Weir.

Long Island ended 2015 with around 25,000 total home rooftop systems installed, a record. The 11,200 total systems added last year also set a record for Long Island, said Weir. A growing number of Long Island solar installations were completed without a rebate last year—some 4,038 systems in all, according to PSEG.

New solar arrays across the U.S. added 6,034 megawatts of capacity in 2015, with the greatest growth in rooftop installations, according to the report. Overall, solar capacity saw a 17 percent increase from 2014.

Solar’s 6,034 megawatts compared with 5,942 for new natural-gas plant capacity for 2015, the report said. In 2014, new solar capacity was 5,802 megawatts and natural gas was 7,485 megawatts, according to the report.

Wind power from land-based turbines topped the 2015 list at 7,977 megawatts, according to the report, nearly double the 4,080 megawatts in 2014. New coal-plant capacity in 2015 totaled 3 megawatts and oil capacity 15 megawatts. Geothermal energy added 48 megawatts.

The report looked at new capacity for the year, not existing plants. The vast majority of power across the country is produced by conventional plants using fossil fuels and nuclear power.

New York’s fifth ranking in total solar growth in 2015 marks a steady upswing for the state. California topped the national list, followed by Nevada, North Carolina and Massachusetts.

Concerns about the growth of the sector were partly alleviated in late 2015, when Congress pushed through a five-year extension of the 30 percent federal tax credit on commercial and residential systems.

Even as a state rebate program for home systems is winding down, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority earlier this month announced it was reinjecting $1.8 million back into the fund, from money that had been allocated for rebates for systems that ultimately weren’t built. Around $2.3 million remains in the fund.

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