A new study by the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) conducted for the state legislature and Governor looked at three scenarios that would allow the state to add in 5,000 megawatts of solar by 2025.
The study determined that depending on falling prices, policy changes and implementation strategies, the state could save up to $2 billion, or lose up to $8 billion.
A main driver of uncertainty in the study was the actual cost per megawatt of solar. It determined that the cost per installed megawatt by 2025 could range from $1.4 million per megawatt to more than triple that, at $4.3 million per megawatt.
The low-cost scenario relies on the Department of Energy meeting its SunShot goal to reduce the cost of solar by 75 percent by the end of this decade, and an extension of the investment tax credit for solar through that period. The high-cost scenario assumes long-term historical trends and no extension of the tax credit, which is set to expire in 2016.
While the report is extensive it does not mean that New York will install 5 gigawatts of solar over the period.
“NY does not have a plan to develop 5 gigawatts of PV; rather, the Power New York Act called for NYSERDA to examine the impacts of such a goal. None of the scenarios NYSERDA offered in the report looked at lowering the amount of solar,” said NYSERDA spokesperson Kate Mueller.
NYSERDA found that the most likely scenario was between the high-cost and low-cost scenarios.
“The New York Solar Study found that under the most likely PV cost scenario, deployment of PV to 5,000 MW by 2025 would result in a net increase in the cost of electricity to consumers due to the relative high cost of PV as compared to conventional electric generation resources,” Muller said.
The cost of electricity in New York already is higher than in most other states for a number of reasons, according to Muller.
“These include the state‘s reliance on fossil fuels from outside the state, constraints in the electric transmission system, and New York State’s geographic location near the end of the natural gas pipeline system,” she said.
The state’s geographic location also means it gets much less solar power out of photovoltaics than do states like California, Nevada or New Mexico, for instance, which helps increase the cost of solar in the state. Since it won’t produce as much power, it will take longer to recoup such losses.
Despite the uncertainty of costs, and the potential cost to New York, NYSERDA found that New York should support the expansion of solar in the state.
The organization said the state needs to pursue policies that include net metering, sales tax exemptions and efforts to reduce the balance of systems costs associated with installing solar.