The state of New York has ambitious mandates for reducing greenhouse gas emissions and increasing renewable energy generation. Solar energy will play an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the electric energy sector. Concerns over solar installations’ impacts to host communities and the environment have led to growing conflicts over solar energy siting on Long Island, in other parts of New York, and throughout the US. Understanding community members’ perspectives is critical for reducing conflict. Solar energy can be deployed more quickly and at lower cost if projects are structured to address the concerns and meet the needs of the community. This paper presents the results of a survey of residential utility ratepayers that examined their perceptions, preferences, and priorities concerning mid- to large-scale solar development on Long Island (250 kW and larger). The survey asked respondents to consider specific installation types, financial models, and other aspects of solar development. Results indicate that respondents were overwhelmingly supportive of mid- to large-scale solar development in their communities. The most highly supported development types were solar systems on rooftops and solar systems that are co-located with other land uses (mixed use) at a particular site, such as parking canopies, landfills, or integration with agriculture. The most highly supported financial models included privately funded projects by local developers and community solar projects. The largest concern about solar development expressed by respondents did not involve tree removal or visibility (as initially hypothesized to be the most significant considerations) but rather the fairness of the distribution of economic benefits associated with solar development. This paper provides concrete insight into particular models of solar development that may invoke less conflict and more community support.
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