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Shining Light on Long Island Solar Jobs

At a solar jobs fair yesterday at Malloy College’s Suffolk campus on Long Island, we joined up with leaders from the business community, environmental advocates and the local labor movement to call on elected officials in Albany to pass the Solar Jobs Act – and soon!

“Long Island needs good jobs,” said Jim Castellane, President of the Nassau and Suffolk Building Trades Council. “This bill (A. 9149a – Englebright) would help create thousands of jobs installing solar panels – jobs that can’t leave the area – and make sure they pay good wages. Thousands of out-of-work New Yorkers are counting on our elected officials to pass this legislation.”

Supported by a growing coalition of labor, business and environmental organizations, the bill would set create a robust solar market, ensuring that 3,000 megawatts of New York State’s power supply would come from solar energy. This would create thousands of local jobs installing the solar panels and protect the environment.

“Investing in solar power is a no-brainer,” said Sail Van Nostrand, Chairman of the Long Island Solar Energy Industries Association. “The New York Solar Jobs Act would ensure that our energy dollars are invested in local jobs right here on Long Island.”

Solar energy has bi-partisan support in the Legislature, as well as support from Governor Cuomo, who recently announced the NY-Sun plan to double the amount of energy produced by solar panels by 2013 and quadruple it by 2014.

“Solar power is a critical part of our state’s energy future,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director of Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Not only does it provide needed jobs for New Yorkers, but it can help clean up our local airshed by reducing the need to use the antiquated, dirty power plants in New York and Long Island, especially on hot, summer days when energy use is at its peak.”

The new bill compliments Cuomo’s initiatives and provides the Public Service Commission (PSC), utilities and state energy authorities some flexibility to decide how to meet their solar targets and includes a mechanism to protect consumers by ensuring that the annual cost of the program never exceeds 1.5% of electricity sales.

“On Long Island, we here at Local 25 of the IBEW have been doing many different solar installations over the last 5 years. Job sizes range from simple 10 KW installations to the more complex 32 MW Long Island Solar Farm at Brookhaven National Lab. We consider it to be a thriving new technology which will bring many new job opportunities to both Nassau and Suffolk Counties,” said IBEW Local 25 Business Manager Kevin Harvey.

“Efforts to grow the solar energy industry promote the triple bottom line of sustainability by reducing air pollution and global warming green house gases, while promoting the growth of profitable companies and creating good quality jobs,” said Neal Lewis, Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute at Molloy College.

The Solar Jobs Fair included a one-hour job training session for people who want to get a job in the rapidly-growing solar energy field.

“New York’s solar opportunity is real. My own town is proud to be the home of the largest solar installation in the eastern United States – the 32 megawatt array at Brookhaven National Lab. I’ve seen the impact of solar development on jobs and investment in my community, and I know we can do more with strong policy from Albany,” said Councilman Steve Fiore-Rosenfeld, Town of Brookhaven.

We’re just as excited as these Long Islanders about what aggressive new solar policy would mean for the local economy, public health and the environment. Help us urge Albany to take action today! If you missed us on Long Island, never fear – we’re taking this show on the road to Buffalo, NYC and the capitol over the next couple weeks.

The Solar Jobs Act would set a target of 3,000 megawatts of solar power generated in New York by 2021 with an interim target of 670 megawatts by 2015. 2,100 MW of the 3,000 MW by 2021 obligation is on investor-owned utilities (IOUs) with an interim target of 400 MW statewide by 2015. 900 MW of the 3,000 MW by 2021 obligation is on the public authorities (LIPA and NYPA) with an interim target of 270 MW, collectively, by 2015. The bill would not prescribe a mechanism for how such obligation must be met, and would allow the Public Service Commission and the utilities the flexibility to explore various options. The bill would include a price ceiling of 1.5% of total electricity sales revenues to protect New York energy consumers. The bill applies labor protection laws, including the prevailing wage law, to the installation of solar panels above a certain size threshold to ensure that New York is expanding solar technology while at the same time creating good, local, family-supporting green jobs. Doesn’t get much better than that.