ALBANY — Branding green energy projects "a post-Covid opportunity" for New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday the upstate region will have as many as 11,000 new jobs as a result of a slew of projects related to a major public investment in renewable power sources.
The plans include a proposed expansion of electricity transmission lines, with potential impacts in the Niagara region, the North Country and the Mohawk Valley as the state aims to put more green energy on the grid.
Cuomo outlined a plan for 20 miles of transmission lines in Western New York to "maximize" the renewable energy output from Niagara Falls to Elma in Erie County.
Further, he said, "to break the current grid congestion, which is a major problem, we will build an 86-mile smart path project in the North Country."
Plans are underway to break ground this year on those projects and for a 100-mile power line from Marcy in Central New York to New Scotland in Albany County. Also planned is a 50-mile transmission line from Rensselaer County to Dutchess County.
All told, he said, 100 green energy projects will help serve as the state's response to global climate change and wean it off fossil fuels. Cuomo said 52 solar projects, 13 onshore wind farms and three offshore wind turbine plants will be accelerated through a new siting process.
"These projects will not only create power, but bring needed economic opportunity to struggling parts of our state," Cuomo said.
Gavin Donohue, president of the Independent Power Producers of New York, said the planned expansion of the state's renewable energy portfolio "will allow for guaranteed emissions reductions and increased reliability, while creating in-state jobs — something we should all be happy about."
At the same time, Donohue added, it is likely that the proposed projects will trigger controversies in the regions where they are placed.
"The local opposition to wind and solar projects is as intense as it is to transmission lines," Donohue said.
The state is also planning a wind turbine factory at the Port of Albany as well as large-scale, offshore wind projects near Long Island.
State Assembly Member John Salka, R-Madison County, said the state's new power siting process is designed to speed up approval of the projects while muffling opposition from local communities.
"This is another misguided attempt by the governor to provide energy for New York City without any benefit to upstate communities," Salka said.
Environmental groups applauded Cuomo's agenda, but also suggested it could be improved.
Liz Moran, environmental director for New York Public Interest Research Group, said fossil fuel companies "should be on the hook for paying for a crisis that they created, not everyday New Yorkers."
She said the state should eliminate "nonessential" tax subsidies for the fossil fuel industry, and drive new revenue into further expansion of energy production from renewable sources.
The focus on building a green grid was welcomed by an industry trade group, Associated Builders & Contractors Empire State Chapter.
But its president, Brian Sampson, argued it will drive up the costs of those initiatives by requiring companies to pay the prevailing wage to construction crews. The prevailing wage is set by union contract rates for specific types of labor specialties and is generally higher than the market wage.
By requiring the prevailing wage, Sampson said, Cuomo is "knowingly" increasing the costs to the labor component of the projects.
Joe Mahoney covers the New York Statehouse for CNHI’s newspapers and websites. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.