The NY State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) has played a vital role in the adoption of solar power throughout New York. With its NY-Sun program, NYSERDA provides cash incentives and financing for residential, commercial and industrial photovoltaic arrays. These incentives are complemented by state and federal tax credits, which further reduce the cost of solar power in NY.

The NY-Sun program has been extremely successful, helping New York State increase its solar capacity by over 1,000% since 2011, while leading to over $2.8 billion in private investment. As an additional benefit, over 12,000 jobs have been created in the solar industry.

  • With the current growth rate, by 2022 the program will have helped New York State increase its solar capacity by over 3,000 MW.
  • In the case of NYC, there are now over 20,000 solar systems connected to the Con Edison grid, and their total capacity exceeds 200 MW.

NYSERDA created the incentive program as part of the statewide effort to meet the Clean Energy Standard, which mandates 50% renewable generation by 2030. The exact incentive rate offered by the NY-Sun program varies depending on project conditions:

  • Type of building: Residential, small business or large business
  • The New York State region where the project is located.
  • Cumulative solar capacity: The highest rebate amount was available for first adopters, and it has been gradually reduced as intermediate capacity targets are met.
  • If a household is below 80% of the median income, the NY-Sun incentive is doubled through a program called Affordable Solar.

What Determines the Value of Solar Power?

Since New York is not a particularly sunny state, one may think that solar power is not viable. However, electricity is expensive locally, and even moderate solar generation can yield significant power bill savings.

  • Assume a solar power system can produce 12,000 kWh per year in a sunny location to the south of the USA, but only 8,000 kWh per year in New York.
  • However, the first project site has an electricity price of 12 cents/kWh, while the New York property is subject to a tariff of 25 cents/kWh.
  • The savings would only be $1,440 per year in the first scenario, in spite of the extra sunshine, but they are increased to $2,000 per year in New York.

In a few words, the sunshine available determines how much electricity can be produced by a PV system, but the kilowatt-hour price determines the financial benefit of that energy.


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Of course, we must not forget the environmental benefit of photovoltaic systems and other clean generation technologies. A solar array produces no carbon dioxide when operating, while a gas power plant produces around 0.5 kg per kWh, and a coal plant may exceed 1 kg per kWh.

Facts About the Largest Solar Power System in NYC

On July 18, NYSERDA announced the completion of the largest solar system in New York City.

  • The photovoltaic array uses more than 9,000 individual modules to reach an installed capacity of 3.1 MW, covering more than 10 acres of former industrial property in Staten Island.
  • The project has an estimated energy output of 4 million kilowatt-hours per year, enough to cover 20% of consumption at Fordham University and 37% of consumption at Fordham Preparatory.
  • Their plans for solar power do not end there, and another PV array with 1 MW of capacity will be installed on a Fordham parking building in Rose Hill.
  • The 3.1-MW solar array includes an innovative concept called “remote net metering”, which means it provides power bill savings for a building located somewhere else.

In this case, the energy output benefits Fordham University and Fordham Preparatory in the Bronx, even though the solar system is located on Staten Island. With traditional net metering, solar power systems can only provide electricity savings for buildings in the same property, but remote net metering removes this limitation.

Remote net metering is a promising concept for NYC, where the space for rooftop solar systems is limited. Under this agreement, property owners can deploy a solar array in the outskirts to reduce electricity expenses in a building at the heart of the city.

Conclusion

Solar power systems can be promising building upgrades in New York City: even though sunshine is moderate, electricity is very expensive. With a professional assessment of your property, you can determine how much area is available for solar power, and you can also get an accurate estimation of energy output and power bill savings.

 

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