Application Review and Site Permitting for Major Renewable Energy Projects

Issued Date
April 24, 2024
Renewable Energy Siting, Office of


To determine whether the Office of Renewable Energy Siting is fulfilling its obligations under State law to issue siting permits for major renewable energy projects within the required time frames. This audit covered the period from April 2020 through July 2023.

About the Program

The Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (Climate Act), effective January 1, 2020, was designed to put the State on a path to zero emissions in all economic sectors, enact standards among the most aggressive in the United States, and require 100% carbon-free electricity by 2040, placing New York’s program on par with leading programs nationally and internationally. The overarching goals of the Climate Act strive to improve quality of life for New Yorkers, protect the environment, and strengthen infrastructure; and seek to grow economic opportunities and ensure equity and inclusion so all may benefit from Climate Act investments. Under the Climate Act, the Public Service Commission (PSC) was required to establish a renewable energy program by the end of June 2021 to meet two requirements: by 2030, a minimum of 70% of statewide electric generation secured by load-serving entities (entities subject to PSC jurisdiction that secure energy to serve the end-use customers in the State) to meet their customers’ demand must be generated by renewable energy systems; and by 2040, the statewide electrical demand system must be zero emissions.

The Office of Renewable Energy Siting (ORES) was created in April 2020 to “streamline and expedite the siting of major renewable energy projects and associated transmission facilities to help achieve the State’s clean energy and climate goals, while maintaining the State’s strong environmental and public participation standards.” ORES was charged with the coordinated and timely review of proposed major renewable energy facilities to meet the State’s renewable energy goals under the Climate Act while ensuring the protection of the environment and consideration of all pertinent social, economic, and environmental factors. In the decision to permit such facilities, ORES must review all proposed major renewable energy facilities that generate 25,000 kilowatts or more. Additionally, some projects originally filed prior to April 2020 were allowed to transfer their project applications to ORES for review. ORES has 60 days to determine whether a permit application is complete or missing required documentation and to notify the applicant. In addition, ORES must make a final decision and issue a final siting permit for any major renewable energy project within 1 year from the date the application was deemed complete.

Key Findings

ORES was intended, in part, to reduce the time to site major renewable energy projects and bring them online faster in support of the Climate Act’s ambitious goals and time line. However, while the overall time between application and final siting permit has improved since the creation of ORES, the process has taken significantly longer than originally envisioned because certain aspects of the process were not considered. For the 15 projects ORES reviewed, we found that neither the time to issue a notice of incomplete application and for the applicant to respond nor the time prior to an application’s transfer to ORES was taken into consideration. For the 14 projects that received final siting permits, it took an average of 1,094 days (3 years) to deem the application complete – the longest part of ORES's process – and, overall, an average of 1,333 days (3.7 years) from the initial application date to the date the final siting permit was issued.

While ORES cannot control the timing prior to an application transfer, or the application’s quality and the applicant’s responsiveness, for planning purposes and to understand the feasibility of meeting Climate Act goals, all site permit process time frames should be accounted for, as delays anywhere in the process can significantly increase the total time it can take to permit and construct major renewable energy projects and to make them operational. A realistic accounting of the total time it can take to site major renewable energy projects would provide important information needed to plan for the overall success for the Climate Act and its goals for New Yorkers.

Key Recommendation

  • Track the number of days from receipt of the initial application to final permit issuance to provide the actual number of days it can take to issue a final siting permit.

Nadine Morrell

State Government Accountability Contact Information:
Audit Director
: Nadine Morrell
Phone: (518) 474-3271; Email: [email protected]
Address: Office of the State Comptroller; Division of State Government Accountability; 110 State Street, 11th Floor; Albany, NY 12236