Surveying the NY Solar Landscape

December 30, 2013 | Article

In order to best inform the NYSolar Smart program CUNY conducted a state-wide survey of local solar policies and processes in New York under Governor Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative. The NYSolar Smart Survey collected data on permitting, interconnection and net metering, planning and zoning, and financing options. In total, 93 jurisdictions around New York State were invited to participate in the survey, and 61 responded to one or more section of the survey. Eight utilities across the state also responded to the survey.

Results from the survey show that there is significant variation among municipal policies and processes that impact solar installations. While some similar policies and processes exist, there are still differences that act as a barrier to solar market growth across New York. When comparing policies and processes across NYS to national best practices, the survey found redundant requirements, potentially restrictive requirements, and major differences between jurisdictions.

In particular, the NYSolar Smart Survey found:

  • A wide range of interest in and awareness of solar permitting best practices
  • Limited availability of online solar permitting information
  • Inconsistency and lack of a defined solar permitting process in many jurisdictions
  • Inconsistent and unclear zoning requirements
  • Solar is not addressed in many zoning codes and comprehensive plans
  • Jurisdictions require multiple, and often redundant, inspections
  • Lack of coordination between utility and municipal inspectionsSolar financing programs are rare

These results indicate a need for a holistic approach to encourage consistency and transparency in the NYS solar market. The NYSolar Smart Program is incorporating lessons learned from the survey into statewide work to reduce balance of system soft costs around New York State.