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Adios Article 10? New York’s Renewable Energy Projects Accelerate Under New Legislation

In early April 2020, NYS Legislature passed a budget bill which included an amendment meant to dramatically speed up the permitting of renewable energy projects in New York State. The new amendment – referred to as Section 94-c of the Executive Law – stems from and maintains many aspects of Governor Cuomo’s Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act proposed earlier this year.

The proposed changes have already gone into effect and include the establishment of an Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES), a Clean Energy Resource Development and Incentives Plan, Grid Planning and Energy Delivery Constraint Relief, and Local Community and Participation Benefits.

So what do these changes mean for your municipality? LaBella’s Renewable Energy team has been dissecting the law to grasp some of the major impacts. Here’s what you need to know.

You may be familiar with the current approval process for large-scale renewable energy projects referred to as “Article 10.” The Article 10 review and approval process came into play in 2012 and replaced the typical SEQR/site plan review and approval processes most familiar to municipalities. Under Article 10, the final decision to approve a large-scale solar or wind project rested with the State instead of local government.

Now, Article 10 is being replaced for almost all large-scale projects with a new process intended to streamline approvals. State regulations for the new Section 94-c are currently under preparation. It appears that intervenor funds will still be available to local municipalities to support their participation in the Section 94-c process ($1,000/megawatt), but since the process will be streamlined, the total amount of intervenor funding will be decreased.

Projects approved under 94c will need to demonstrate “compliance with local laws.” This appears to be one of the few avenues local governments will have to shape approval conditions for utility-scale wind or solar projects.

Does your municipal code have up-to-date solar and wind laws? Are your current solar and wind laws stringent enough to protect your community’s priorities? Success at maintaining a local voice in these projects hinges on having robust and up-to-date local laws.

LaBella’s Renewable Energy team recommends municipalities act now by reviewing their current laws. Although the State has one year to develop detailed regulations, project applications can now be submitted under Section 94-c and approvals will move very quickly (one year or less). Therefore, updating solar and wind laws by adding the provisions you will need to protect your priorities is crucial to ensuring your community has a voice when the next large-scale project comes to town.