New York’s Plan for a Self-Sustaining Solar Industry

10 September 2014 Energy Current Blog

Governor Cuomo recently announced that New York’s multiple solar programs are transitioning into the single, statewide NY-Sun Incentive Program. The decision is intended to support the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative and help grow the State’s already vibrant solar market. The intended outcome of the Governor’s program is to expand deployment of solar projects across the state, add more than 3,000 megawatts (MW) to the State’s solar capacity, which is enough to power 400,000 homes, and ultimately transform New York’s solar market into a self-sustaining industry.

With the launch of the program, Governor Cuomo intended to send “a clear message that New York is a leader in solar energy innovation.” Merging multiple programs into the NY-Sun Incentive Program is projected to further stimulate the development of solar projects across the state and “aid in New York’s transition to a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient energy grid.” 

The decision to create the NY-Sun Incentive Program comes at a time when “[t]he days of start-and-stop solar incentive programs are over,” stated John B. Rhodes, President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. The program will provide much needed funding certainty, which is intended to stimulate private sector investment in an already growing solar market.

The program deploys public funds in order to drive industry scale and reduce burdens on ratepayers by providing financial support for solar projects. One of the main pillars of the program is a MW block system, which divides the state into three regions – Con Edison territory, Long Island and Upstate. Each region is assigned separate MW blocks and incentive levels for residential solar projects up to 25 kilowatts (kW) and small non-residential solar projects up to 200 kW. When the MW target for the first block in each sector (residential or small non-residential) within a region is reached, that block is closed and a new block for the sector is started with a new MW target and a lower incentive level. Once all of the blocks for a particular region and sector are filed, an incentive for that region and sector will no longer be offered.

The MW blocks and incentives for large commercial systems over 200 kW will be available in 2015.

The program increases the size of non-residential systems eligible for incentives from 100 kW to 200 kW in an attempt to support growth in that historically slower sector, as compared to a very successful residential sector. The program also provides incentives for non-residential systems that are installed through Power Purchase Agreements and leases, which is intended to stimulate market investment.

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