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Transitioning Underused Spaces

Leveraging underutilized land for renewable energy generation

Arial view of solar farm.

New York’s renewable energy market is growing quickly, and demand is high for suitable sites to install large-scale systems. Underutilized land, such as brownfields, landfills, former industrial sites, and parking lots, can have potential advantages for renewable energy development, including:

  • Proximity to roads and existing utility infrastructure
  • Lower costs for undervalued land
  • Community support for land revitalization

Farms may have underused, marginal land that could be sited for solar development. This provides an additional revenue source for farmers while keeping prime agriculture land in production. There are multiple factors landowners should consider before committing to lease their land for solar development. For instance, it’s important to have provisions for decommissioning a solar array when the lease expires.

Learn more about landowner considerations for solar

Benefits of Redeveloping Underused Sites for Renewable Energy

Municipalities and private landowners across New York State possess untapped resources for siting renewable energy generation facilities. Repurposing these sites for clean energy can deliver multiple benefits, including:

  • Generate revenue and clean energy for communities and landowners
  • Obtain community benefits, such as local infrastructure upgrades, environmental restoration, or recreational facilities, through host community agreements with developers
  • Support municipal clean energy goals, such as procuring 100% renewable energy or installing electric vehicle charging stations through host a community agreement
  • Create jobs by spurring local clean energy development
  • Access Federal clean energy tax credits, solar and wind projects sited on brownfields or serving low-income communities are eligible to receive a 10-20% tax credit bonus
  • Reduce risk and advance development of difficult sites through the Build-Ready program
  • Protect open spaces by encouraging use of previously developed sites and marginal land

Opportunities to Unlock Sites for Renewable Energy Development

1. Build-Ready

Many underutilized sites have complex development challenges that have kept commercial developers from pursuing large-scale renewable energy projects. Through the Build-Ready program, NYSERDA is reducing barriers to redeveloping these sites for renewable energy.

From site identification to auctioning the site to private developers, Build-Ready works with communities and landowners to advance difficult sites through the development process.

The Build-Ready program accepts site nominations Link opens in new window - close new window to return to this page. from elected officials, local community members, private companies, or other interested parties. Priority is given to previously developed sites, existing or abandoned commercial sites, brownfields, landfills, former commercial or industrial sites, dormant electric generating sites, and other underutilized sites.

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2. Just Transition Site Reuse Planning

Communities can apply for technical assistance and services to inform local decision making and reuse planning for future fossil fuel power plant closures. Support is available in two phases: developing a Site Reuse Planning Study and pre-development activities to achieve more advanced community revitalization goals. NYSERDA has established a network of consultants with regional and technical expertise to help communities plan a sustainable economic path forward.

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3. Brownfield Opportunity Areas (BOA)

The BOA program provides communities technical assistance and grant funding to develop community-based plans to redevelop brownfields and other vacant and abandoned sites. This begins with a community planning process to identify a clear vision, goals, and strategies for brownfield redevelopment, followed by State designation of a Brownfield Opportunity Area. Then, designated BOA communities are eligible for State funding and assistance to initiate brownfield redevelopment.

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You Might Also Be Interested

Not every underutilized site qualifies for the Build-Ready, Just Transition Site Reuse Planning, and BOA programs but may still have potential to be repurposed for renewable energy. Explore the programs and resources below to advance clean energy in your community. 

  • Clean Energy Siting Resources: A suite of resources to empower local governments with knowledge, training, and best practices to manage responsible clean energy development in their communities.
  • NY-Sun: Provides resources and guidance on implementing solar for communities and local governments.
  • Solar Guidebook for Local Governments: Includes information, tools, and step-by-step instruction to support local governments managing solar development in their communities.

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