Solar Energy: Time for New York to Get in the Game

06/14/2011 04:28 pm ET | Updated Aug 14, 2011

With more than 25 years of combined experience in professional sports

between us, we know a thing or two about competition. Right now our

state and our nation are deep in the throes of one of the most

important competitions of our generation: the race to lead the new

renewable energy economy. And without action from New York's

lawmakers, the Empire State will see its chance at a solar

championship slip away.

The stakes are high in this game. Winners will become home to vibrant

hubs of new economic opportunity, local investment and job creation.

America's solar power industry is already experiencing record-breaking

growth. The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that U.S.

solar market value expanded 67 percent to $6 billion and supported 100,000

last year. Those are high quality U.S. jobs all across the

solar supply chain from manufacturing and design to construction and


And that's just the beginning of how solar means good business. Solar

keeps energy dollars in-state by harnessing the power of the sun, a

fuel source that is reliable, local and free. It delivers reliable

electricity when and where we need it most without requiring expensive

grid upgrades. It provides a predictable hedge against the volatile

prices of natural gas and other fossil-based resources. It offsets the

most polluting and pricey portion of New York's electricity mix, the

peak generation used to power our air-conditioners running on these

hot summer days. That mid-day solar power production reduces brownouts

and offers welcome relief to business-as-usual energy spending that

has given us some of the highest electricity rates in the country.

But it takes the right policies to build a strong local solar economy

and reap those many benefits. Without leadership from our state

capital, New York is going to see that opportunity for leadership slip

through our grasp -- like a touchdown pass getting intercepted or a

glove-grazing puck hitting the net.

Once one of the nation's top solar power markets, New York is already

falling behind. Our neighbors in New Jersey added nearly seven times

as much solar as New York did last year. The sun doesn't shine any

brighter in the Garden State. Their workforce is not any more

qualified for solar jobs. Their energy consumers aren't significantly

more environmentally-inclined. It's state energy policy that has made

all the difference. New Jersey made a clear, long-term policy

commitment to solar power, letting the global renewable energy

industry know that the state is open for business. And as a result, we

are losing solar jobs and other benefits over our borders.

It's not too late for a comeback. Lawmakers in Albany are currently

considering a new policy that would get New York back in the game. The

bi-partisan New York Solar Jobs Act would develop enough safe,

reliable solar to power 500,000 homes. Analysis from the non-profit

grassroots group Vote Solar shows that it would support tens of

thousands of new jobs and billions of dollars that could be reinvested

in the Empire State's economy. It's a playbook for delivering

economic, environmental and public health benefits tomorrow and for

generations to come.

Lawmakers have just over a week left until the legislative session

ends and they go home until 2012. New York cannot afford another year

of sitting on the sidelines of our nation's growing solar economy. We

are urging lawmakers to pass the New York Solar Jobs Act before the

clock runs out.

Mike Richter is the all-time winningest goaltender for the New York

Rangers, the team he played with for all 15 years of his National

Hockey League career.

National Football League veteran Sage Rosenfels is a quarterback for

the New York Giants.