Queens leaders joined the Million Solar Strong Campaign on Tuesday to urge Gov. Cuomo to support initiatives to power one million state households with solar energy by 2023.
The event took place in Long Island City next to the Hunters Point South Ferry Landing. An existing solar project at the park facing the East River overlooking the Manhattan skyline was the site of the announcement. Those at the event said they also hope to also bring solar energy to 100,000 low-income households.
EmPower, a Long Island-based solar company, also joined the event to show its dedication to bringing renewable energy to Queens.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) spoke of the need for more of the city’s energy to come from renewable resources.
“That has got to stop,” Gianaris said. “If we want to have a future for our children, if we want to have a future for our society, we need to make sure that we move to renewables. And there is no better way to go than solar.”
The Million Solar Strong campaign said the most important thing Cuomo can do is to protect and strengthen the state’s progression in moving towards more solar power. The group noted that New York has over 200,000 households powered by solar, and the state’s solar industry has 9,000 workers.
The roadmap towards reaching their goal is outlined by aspects such as fair customer compensation, expanding access for low-income and underserved communities and facilitating affordable financing to enable solar growth.
“If we look at climate change, we have to reduce our city emissions 80 percent by 2050,” said City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), chairman of the Committee on Environmental Protection. “If we go to a million more homes in our state and we get a majority of those here in New York City, we will meet our goal to fight climate change.”
Constantinides said that air quality benefits to parts of western Queens will drastically improve if fossil fuels are eliminated and replaced with renewable energy sources.
With the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Buchanan, NY set to close by April 2021, concerns over whether fossil fuels will impede the solar initiative were shut down by officials on Tuesday.
Shutting down the plant — which supplies about one-quarter of the city’s electricity and is about 30 miles from Midtown Manhattan — was a priority of Cuomo’s. The announcement was officially made early last year after Cuomo said he had been trying to shut the plant down for 15 years.
“[Indian Point] is a big reason why this campaign exists,” said Renee Vogelsang, the campaign strategist for the group. “We need to ramp up clean energy as quickly as possible so that when we’re transitioning out of different types of energy ... We are instead replacing it with clean energy like solar.”
According to Vogelsang, if goals were not set to combat the threats of elements such as fracked gas and fossil fuels, the risk of them overtaking efforts to implement renewable energy becomes greater.
Other present speakers at Tuesday’s event were EmPower Solar CEO David G. Schieren and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside).
In his remarks, Queens Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Tom Grech said that the time for Queens to get started on finding ways to incorporate solar energy is now.
He said that the borough’s size and resources allow for better planning when it comes to renewable energy’s future developments.
Grech pointed to warehousing and raw material with flat roofs as catalysts for future work with solar energy. The desire and need he said he sees adds another reason for more work to be done.
“As the home to the largest geographic borough in New York City, and the home to the most single-family homes than any other borough, Queens is primetime for solar,” Grech said. “More than Manhattan. More than any other borough that there is. It’s pretty cool.”