NYC's New Solar Milestone: 100 Megawatts and Counting

The plummeting cost of solar and smart New York City policies are helping New Yorkers take advantage of the clean power technology.
This solar array on Cabrini Avenue in the Bronx is just one installation in a growing number across New York City. The prospects for solar in the Big Apple keep getting better and better.
Credit: Susan Sermoneta via Flickr

Let’s hear it for achieving milestones: As of mid-2017, New York City has topped the 100-megawatt solar mark, with almost 10,000 solar projects, producing nearly enough electricity to power more than 15,000 New York City homes. That isn’t all we should expect this year, either, as there are another 35 megawatts in the 2017 installation queue. The job growth in New York’s solar field is pretty impressive, too—with around 2,700 solar workers in the five boroughs combined.

Despite its significant potential, New York hasn’t always been the easiest city in which to install solar power. Many of our 1 million buildings are packed tightly together, and many have complicated, equipment-congested roofs. Historically, regulatory barriers have gotten in the way, too. But Mayor de Blasio has been working to chip away at those challenges, seeking to ease the solar process for New Yorkers.

In fact, the prospects for solar in New York City keep getting better: This spring, there are two new Solarize collective purchasing campaigns underway that can help lower the cost of solar by 10-20 percent. (More below.) And, as our colleague Lindsay Robbins explains in her blog, the city and state housing agencies, NYSERDA, utilities, and financing organizations have just jointly released their Integrated Property Needs Assessment for all buildings they help support, requiring owners to detail the opportunities for energy efficiency and solar in any buildings slated for improvement. Add to that a recent decision by the state’s Public Service Commission that will make it easier to install shared solar on smaller apartment buildings, and the news about solar in New York City is starting to look especially promising.

The plummeting cost of solar panels, along with the State’s NY-Sun initiative, have both contributed significantly to the immense solar growth in the Big Apple. But smart policies advanced by New York City have also streamlined the siting, financing, and installation process and smoothed the way for New Yorkers to avail themselves of this city’s significant solar potential.

Indeed, while some people may think there’s only enough sunlight for solar to serve as a “green accessory” in the city, the truth is that if New Yorkers took full advantage of the city’s rooftops, we could generate more than 5,800 megawatts of power. That’s a lot of good energy.

The New York City Solar Partnership, a collaboration among the City University of New York’s Sustainable CUNY program, the New York City Economic Development Corporation, and the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, has, in recent years, taken a number of steps to propel solar forward. Its Solarize groups have helped lower solar costs and enabled homeowners, businesses, and community institutions to connect with and commit to solar opportunities in their neighborhoods. (Interested? The two new Solarize groups are: Solar Uptown Now, in Harlem, and Solarize 2030 District, in Brooklyn’s downtown Community Board 2.) The Solar Partnership’s shared solar program will help people who can’t install solar where they live or work participate instead in offsite solar projects. And the phenomenal online New York Solar Map not only allows users to see how much solar they can install on their buildings, it also shows how much that solar might cost, what incentives are available, and how long the payback period might be.

Solar’s growth in the country’s biggest, most densely populated city shows just how important smart policies can be in fighting climate change, supporting new industries, creating jobs, and saving consumers money on their energy bills. As Frank Sinatra sang about our beloved berg, “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere.” 

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