Solar on NYC Rooftops Sees Record Growth, Poised for More

April 16, 2013

There were 14 MW of solar actively generating power on City rooftops at the close of 2012, an increase from 8.5 megawatts just a year earlier. There were only a handful of solar installation companies doing business in NYC and barely a megawatt of solar in 2007 when the City University of New York (CUNY) first partnered with the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability, NYC Economic Development Corporation, New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Con Edison to strategically address barriers to large scale solar adoption.  Since then, these partners have worked with over 30 stakeholders to implement four U.S. Department of Energy initiatives. The growth to 14 MW by the end of 2012 added an estimated $116,000,000 to the local economy with over 90 installation companies or individuals now installing solar in NYC. The supply chain of services that provide support to the solar industry includes engineers, architects, and electricians. The improvements and growth in the NYC market have also attracted companies that offer solar leasing and third party purchasing agreements, providing opportunities for New Yorkers to install solar for relatively small upfront costs.

The collaboration between these partners and others over the last six years has created a framework to support the growth of PV installations. Specific successes include: NYS incentives through NYSERDA’s ‘Standard Offer’ and the NY-Sun Competitive PV Program for large scale installations, the NYC Property Tax Abatement, the NYC Solar Map, zoning improvements and net metering expansions, the creation of Solar Empowerment Zones, streamlining of technical requirements, the expansion of the NYC Department of Buildings Development Hub to include permitting for solar projects, installer training and NYC Solar Ombudsmen.

With growth comes new challenges. In order for NYC to maintain its current market trajectory and justify continued incentives designed for rapid growth targets, it is essential to continue collaborative efforts. Exploring technical issues such as understanding and managing the impacts (positive or negative) of increased large-scale PV penetration on network grids as well as continued efforts to streamline interconnection and permitting of solar projects will be central to capturing the full value of distributed, renewable electricity generation and ensuring New York City is able to meet its economic and technical solar potential.