New York City Welcomes Extension of Key Solar Incentive

August 17, 2012 | Media Release

Current incentives have spurred exponential growth of solar capacity, jobs in NYC

Today, New York demonstrated its ongoing commitment to encouraging the growth of the solar industry by extending the New York City property tax abatement an additional two years for consumers investing in solar installations. PlaNYC, the Mayor’s long term sustainability plan, set a 30% greenhouse gas emission reduction target for 2030 with a goal of providing cleaner, more reliable power for every New Yorker.  As solar has substantial potential to generate clean renewable electricity within City limits, PlaNYC committed to work with the State to provide targeted incentives for solar energy and eliminate barriers that inhibit growth. A four year property tax abatement was established in 2008 that to-date has helped lead to an 800% increase in solar power capacity and a quadrupling of solar installation companies in the City. The current abatement of 20% was set to expire at the end of 2012. The Governor’s action today in signing the legislation extends the abatement at a level of 10% of total capital costs for 2013 and 2014.

“With the extension of this key incentive, New York City can continue to encourage the growth of the solar industry and move toward our PlaNYC goals of making our energy systems cleaner and more reliable, achieving the best air quality of any big U.S. city, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions,” said Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg. “Since we first put this abatement in place, we’ve lowered the cost and other barriers to solar investment and launched an interactive tool that estimates the solar energy potential for every building in New York City. These efforts have helped us increase our solar power capacity fivefold. This development is good for our energy economy and a central component of our agenda to create a greener, greater New York. I want to thank the Assemblyman Farrell and Senator Lanza for sponsoring this legislation and Governor Cuomo for extending this abatement.”

“Every kilowatt of installed solar on our rooftops helps all NYC citizens as it leads to cleaner energy, cleaner air and grows the economy,” said Tria Case, University Director of Sustainability for the City University of New York(CUNY)and lead implementer of the U.S. Department of Energy solar efforts in NYC. “The extension of the tax abatement serves as a bridge, spurring growth while we continue our collaborative efforts to simplify the process and lower the costs of installing solar in America’s largest City, helping the Department of Energy achieve its national goal of grid parity without subsidies by the end of the decade.”

The intent of the 2008 legislation that created the tax abatement was to accelerate growth by helping to mitigate the cost premium for installing solar in New York City relative to the rest of the metropolitan region.  At the time, it cost nearly 30% more to install a solar power system in New York City than it did elsewhere because solar installers had limited experience working in the City and the process for permitting and interconnecting solar panels was overly complex.  Since 2008, the City has awarded over 200 tax abatements and the number of solar installers working locally has quadrupled.  The City went from having 2 megawatts (MW) of installed solar capacity in 2008 to over 10 MW’s today. This growth rate was nearly double that of Westchester County over the same period.  The City and Con Edison have also worked with the City University of New York to streamline the process for installing solar as part of the US Department of Energy’s Solar America City’s program.  As a result, the cost premium for installing solar in New York City today is down to just 10 percent.

“The installation of solar panels is a critical part of greening New York City, and this tax abatement extension will entice more property owners to go solar,” said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “To encourage more solar panel installations citywide, we have launched a new program called Get It Done. Together. – Solar Edition, which is designed to accelerate the permitting process and provide property owners and contractors with guidance on how to install a solar system. I would like to thank Governor Cuomo, Mayor Bloomberg, the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, and the City University of New York for their hard work and support in making New York one of the greenest cities in the world.”

“Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, the State is strongly committed to the development and deployment of solar energy as an affordable renewable energy source.  The Governor’s action in approving this legislation strengthens the partnership we have with CUNY and New York City to ensure solar power remains an attractive option in the City. This legislation will help increase the amount of solar energy installed while reducing installation costs, stimulating economic development and lessening the demand on the grid,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

“Governor Cuomo’s commitment to clean energy is exemplified by the extension of the solar property tax abatement,” said Gil C. Quiniones, NYPA President and Chief Executive Officer.  “The extension of this legislation will ensure that New York State remains at the vanguard of renewable energy technology.  It’s refreshing that the coordinated efforts of Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg continue to drive the development and deployment of solar technology and the growth of New York’s economy.”

“Founded in NYC over ten years ago, Solar Energy Systems (LLC) has grown from two to sixteen full time employees due in large part to the commitment of NY State and New York City to support and promote the growth of clean tech business. It’s working.  The extension of the NYC Property Tax Abatement for two years at reduced levels is a huge success,” said David Buckner, President of Solar Energy Systems, LLC. “System costs are dropping which in turn is allowing for reduced incentives and the emergence of an industry that is built to last. “

While the City will still rely heavily on conventional energy sources, such as electricity generated by natural gas and energy efficiency programs, the installation of solar energy can play an important role in the transition to cleaner energy. The NYC Solar Map, a project launched in 2011, provides extensive data verifying that a substantial amount of renewable power can be supplied from NYC rooftops with solar systems that are commercially available. Furthermore, because solar energy production is greatest during hot summer days when energy demand is at its peak, it is useful as a load management tool and can help to reduce harmful air emissions from peaking power plants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently awarded CUNY and its partners for its work around the NYC Solar Map and the ongoing efforts to streamline the solar installation process.

“The extension of the property tax abatement will help ensure that solar remains attractive to building owners and encourage even greater use of this clean, renewable resource in New York City,” said Robert Schimmenti, Con Edison’s vice president of engineering and planning. “Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg, we have already seen a dramatic acceleration in the development of solar energy, a trend Con Edison strongly supports.”

Renewal of the property tax abatement will foster continued growth in New York City’s solar energy supply and stimulate economic development throughout the City and State. Recently NYC, with the support of over 30 organizations,  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 without subsidies by the end of the decade.