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As part of its broader goal of increasing renewable energy production, New York State has set a policy goal encouraging the beneficial reuse of brownfield sites, including closed landfills. The Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth and Community Benefit Act (the “Act”), passed by the New York State legislature on April 3, 2020, specifically prioritizes siting of large-scale renewable projects on landfills, brownfields, and other underutilized properties, bringing more attention to municipal landfills and other dormant sites. To implement this prioritization, the Act requires the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (“NYSERDA”) through a “Build Ready” program to identify environmentally challenged, dormant industrial and other difficult to develop sites and to invest resources in making them ready for developers to capitalize upon. This directive is coupled with expanded incentive funding from NYSERDA in its NY-Sun program for smaller-scale and community solar projects sited on landfills and brownfields.
Both developers and municipalities should understand how these programs can be leveraged to their mutual benefit, including the related incentives that are available. Host community agreements and payment-in-lieu-of-taxes agreements (“PILOTs”) are nothing new; almost every renewable energy project in the State comes with at least one. Now, both developers and municipalities can receive a wider range of benefits from these projects through State programs that are getting underway. When coupled with funding from State and Federal brownfield cleanup tax credits and grants, these incentives can also have the added benefit of assisting in spurring local economic development through all stages of a redevelopment project – from site cleanup and remediation, to the development and ongoing operation of a renewable energy project.