NYC Reaches DOE Solar America City Goal 3 Years Early

April 4, 2012 | Media Release

Two New Solar Empowerment Zones Announced

The NYC Solar America City Partnership (Partnership) announced today that solar energy capacity in New York City has increased 800 percent over the past six years and the City has surpassed its solar energy target of 8.1 MW under the federally-funded Solar America City program three years early.  In addition, the Partnership announced two new Solar Empowerment Zones to be located in Chelsea and the lower East Side of Manhattan.  Installed capacity in the three existing Solar Empowerment Zones (Downtown Brooklyn, Greenpoint-Gateway, and Staten Island East) increased by 350 percent since their creation just two years ago, which is nearly double the citywide growth rate.

In 2007, New York City had just one megawatt of installed solar power, and faced technical, administrative and policy barriers to installing solar that surpassed any other major city in the country.  To catalyze solar development, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) designated New York City a ‘Solar America City’ and provided funding and technical assistance to a newly formed Partnership between the City University of New York (CUNY), the Mayor’s office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS), and the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC).  One of the initial goals of this effort was to achieve 8.1 megawatts (MW) of installed solar in NYC by 2015, the maximum allowed under the former state-wide cap on net metering.  NYC has reached that goal three years early with current solar capacity now at 8.4 MW with many additional installations in the planning stages.

This increase parallels the quadrupling of solar installation companies doing business in NYC since 2007 demonstrating the economic benefits of enabling the solar market in this city of a million rooftops. Highlights of the effort under the Partnership that led to the early results include: the creation of the first-ever City property tax abatement for solar, new statewide net metering rules, an online NYC Solar Map, and reduced interconnection requirements as the result of a collaborative study of the NYC grid.

“The growth of solar energy generated right on our City’s rooftops demonstrates that solar is a real, viable option for NYC, an option that is providing renewable power and jobs,” said Tria Case, CUNY’s University Director of Sustainability and lead implementer of the solar plan. “The NYC Solar America City Partnership and its multiple stakeholders look forward to continuing the collaborative effort to enable large scale adoption of solar in New York City.”

“New York City’s rapid growth in installed solar capacity since its designation as a U.S. DOE Solar America City is significant, but 8.4 megawatts is just the beginning of what we can achieve,” said Sergej Mahnovski, Director of Energy Policy in the NYC Mayor’s Office. “Our efforts to streamline permitting and hone policy and incentive structures will encourage the level of investment needed to achieve over 45 megawatts by 2015, while advancing our PlaNYC sustainability goals for a greener, greater New York.”

“As it works to implement its strategic plan, The NYC Solar America City Partnership takes another significant step forward.  Its coordinated efforts are not only helping us to become more environmentally efficient, but are generating new types of economic investment, further diversifying our economy and ensuring the sustainability of our economy in both senses of the word,” said New York City Economic Development President Seth W. Pinsky.

The implementation of the NYC solar plan continued with a second award in 2010 from DOE, through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA),  that led to the launching of the NYC Solar Map in 2011, the placement of solar ombudsmen who help streamline the installation process and the creation of NYC Solar Empowerment Zones.

NYC Solar Empowerment Zones

The Zones are strategically selected geographical regions where solar power is most viable and beneficial to the NYC electrical system and where additional incentives and ombudsmen assistance is offered. Installed solar capacity in the initial three Zones increased by 350% in less than two years, which is nearly twice the citywide average growth rate. The two newly created NYC Solar Empowerment Zones are in Chelsea and the lower East Side of Manhattan, and are based on the same technical criteria that determined the original Solar Empowerment Zones.  All five of the NYC Solar Empowerment Zones have a “day-peaking” energy usage profile that conforms closely to the daily production of solar power. Targeted solar power development in these Empowerment Zones could play a critical role in reducing peak demand and associated pollution from dirty peaking plants. Solar Empowerment Zones Map

“We have made a lot of progress in growing the amount of power generated in New York City from this clean, renewable source,” said Robert Schimmenti, Con Edison’s vice president of engineering and planning. “The addition of two new Solar Empowerment Zones will help even more customers save money, protect the environment and reduce the demand on our system at peak times.”

NYSERDA provides an additional 15% incentive for solar projects in all five Zones under its Regional Program. These areas qualify for funding of large solar installations through NYSERDA’s Regional Program, which is providing $150 million over five years to encourage large businesses, especially manufacturing facilities, colleges and universities, and other large buildings located in New York City, Westchester and the lower Hudson Valley to take advantage of renewable energy incentives.  In order to be eligible, a customer must be contributing to the State’s RPS fund. NYSERDA supports NYC Solar America City goals through photovoltaic (PV) incentive programs that help make solar energy more affordable for homeowners, large and small businesses, multi-family buildings and nonprofit organizations. NYSERDA’s Solar PV Program provided incentives for 183 projects in New York City from January 1 2011 through March 7, 2012. Applications are reviewed on an on-going basis, first-come, first-served.

“This success achieved by New York City’s Solar America Cities program is a testimonial to the power of partnerships,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA. “NYSERDA is proud to support the partners involved in this program, all of whom have demonstrated a commitment to increasing New York City’s solar power generation, and had a role in reaching the goal ahead of schedule.”

CUNY, on behalf of NYC and with the support of over 30 organizations, recently won a third consecutive award from the Department of Energy through its SunShot Initiative ‘Rooftop Solar Challenge’, part of a national effort to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.  Details of the Solar Monitoring, Analytics, Road mapping and Tracking NY (SMART NY) plan to make solar energy more accessible and affordable for residents and businesses by driving down the administrative costs will be presented at the NYC Solar Summit on June 7, 2012. The plan includes the creation of an Intelligent IT platform for solar by CUNY Ventures who will utilize IBM’s Intelligent Operations Center™ (IOC) technology solutions, the world’s first engagement of an IOC for solar.

About the NYC Solar America Cities Partnership

The NYC Solar America City Partnership is led by Sustainable CUNY and comprised of the New York City Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability (OLTPS), the New York City Economic Development Corporation (EDC), and the City University of New York (CUNY).  The Partnership is also supported by Con Edison and the New York Power Authority as utility partners and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and receives additional technical support from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).