Harckham bill to help municipalities create renewable energy projects passes Senate

New York State Senator Pete Harckham and his state Senate colleagues approved a bill he reintroduced earlier this year that will help municipalities with restrictions on parks to use certain parking areas for solar energy projects.

The legislation (S.2995), which will help New York achieve the ambitious goals included in its landmark Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (CLCPA), was one of 15 bills in a package of environmental protection measures adopted yesterday by the State Senate.

“Climate change is the existential crisis of our time, so we must do everything we can to protect our planet,” Harckham said. “The legislation I have introduced to advance renewable energy projects in municipal parks will help in this effort. Yet we must continue to work together to reduce carbon emissions and reduce greenhouse gases. I am confident that my colleagues in the state government understand how important it is for us to act on this.

To see a video clip of Harckham speaking about his bill in the Senate, click here.

Under current law, municipalities must seek legislation from the legislature to dispose of parks that include airspace directly above real estate used for vehicle parking. As New York State looks for ways to implement the CLCPA, interest in solar projects in the airspace above vehicle parking lots has grown. Solar panels are known as a clean and renewable source of energy that also saves money and generates revenue.

Harckham’s bill will allow municipalities to circumvent the process of asking the state legislature to dispose of parks to advance solar power projects under two megawatts located directly above a property currently used for parking vehicles. This will make it possible to replicate certain solar projects more efficiently, save time and reduce the carbon footprint.

It should be noted that non-park uses by a municipality that require disposition constitute a lease for any purpose. Municipalities often find that solar projects have unaffordable upfront costs, so to install solar canopies in their parking lots without incurring debt, they will seek to engage with a solar developer who will finance and build the project. The developer then owns the solar installation and sells the electricity, but must pay rent to the municipality for the use of the land and the air space. Municipalities that can finance and advance solar projects on their own do not need to alienate the park.

Yorktown Supervisor Matthew Slater said, “Having recently gone through the process of disposing of parks for a renewable energy system, this legislation will help streamline the local approval process and encourage municipalities to explore renewable energy investments. I hope our partners in the Assembly will pass the legislation and approve it.

Mayor of Croton-on-Hudson Brian Poug said, “For local municipalities across the state focused on creating smart renewable energy projects that can also produce financial benefits, the advancement of this legislation is great news. We all need to do everything in our power to fight climate change, and this initiative will make good use of community resources in a safe and environmentally friendly way. I thank Senator Harckham for his continued leadership in this effort and other environmental issues.

Tim Guinea, a leader of the Climate Reality Project, said: “The development of renewable energy is essential if we are to achieve our climate goals. An obvious place for this construction to occur is above vehicle parking lots. This is smart, targeted legislation that will help cut red tape and lead us towards our clean energy future.

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