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Cuomo unveils ambitious green energy program for New York

Governor Andrew Cuomo's office

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday unveiled an ambitious plan to bring more green energy and what he said will be thousands of jobs to New York state.

Plans include new solar farms, offshore wind turbines and more transmission lines across the state.

Cuomo, in the third of a series of four State of the State speeches, said $26 billion will be spent in public-private partnerships on 100 projects, including solar energy farms in Saratoga, Cortland, Livingston and Lewis counties, and the building of two major offshore wind farms, with 90 turbines each, off Long Island. One will be 20 miles off Jones Beach; the other will be 60 miles off the coast at Montauk. The two will produce a combined 2,500 megawatts of power. 

“Don’t worry, neither will be visible from the shore,” the governor added.

In addition, the Port of Albany will become a center for manufacturing the wind towers to be used at the offshore sites, and existing facilities in Brooklyn will be beefed up. 

To move all of that power around, Cuomo said he’s opening a competitive bidding process for three projects involving hundreds of miles of new or strengthened transmission lines. They include two along the entire length of eastern New York that would bring Canadian hydropower through the North Country, the Capital Region and the Hudson Valley to New York City, where the demand for energy is greatest.  A third would run the length of the Hudson Valley, and 26 miles would be added in western New York to distribute power more efficiently from the hydropower dam in Niagara Falls.  

“All of these projects will break the congestion and open the grid,” Cuomo said.  

It’s the second time in his decade as governor that Cuomo has proposed major green energy projects. His first attempt -- a solar panel factory at a former steel plant in Lackawanna in western New York, known as the Buffalo Billion -- did not work out as planned.

A state comptroller’s report in August found that the project is yet to produce the hundreds of jobs initially promised, and that the state entity in charge, Empire State Development, did not properly manage the enterprise.

Scandals related to the Buffalo Billion resulted in prison sentences for several involved, including the governor’s former closest aide, Joe Percoco; the former head of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, Alain Kaloyeros; and Buffalo-area developer Louis Ciminelli.

Environmental groups praised the new initiatives. In a statement, NYPIRG’s Liz Moran said the governor is right that global warming poses an “existential threat,” and she urged Cuomo to go further and eliminate tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.