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New York Climate Change Progress during Pandemic on Display at Energy 21 Symposium

Jordan Macknick/NREL

How can New York State’s climate change efforts progress during a global pandemic? 

The National Renewable Energy Laboratorysays one way is to have solar developments on the state’s farmland.

However, Energy, Water, and Land Analyst Jordan Macknick is finding some resistance. 

“It becomes a major challenge and a major barrier to the development of solar if you can’t find a place to site it or if there’s nowhere to put the solar because everywhere you go there’s pushback.”

Macknick says it would take less than one percent of U.S. land area to supply the entire country with the amount of electricity it needs with solar power. Currently, the laboratory is working on seven projects with Cornell University. One is studying what crops and livestock could be maintained on farmland alongside solar power installations.

Another concern is making progress on climate change as the economy is affected by the pandemic. President of New York Power Authority Gil Quiniones says making homes and businesses more energy efficient could create jobs.  

“We need to focus on items like energy efficiency. Energy efficiency saves money and creates the most amount of jobs. But make no mistake, it’s tough out there. A lot of businesses are having a tough time and we need to be creative.”

The Energy Storage Association says battery storage is another way to create a more efficient environment. CEO Kelly Speaks-Backman says it’s important to remember these goals even during a pandemic. 

“As we learn to live with this virus and learn to move forward in our work, we can’t forget that we have to keep energy affordable. We have to be efficient about how we do it and that includes storage even as we clean up our grid. And those jobs are going to come from the clean energy industry.”

Ideas on clean energy and climate change were discussed Monday during a virtual conversation by the organization Energy-21

Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.