Solar Outlook in New York

There are now more reasons than ever before to buy solar in New York State. It’s no secret that burning fossil fuels for electricity generation has been adding to our planet’s climate change problem. For concerned citizens, this has always been a major driver for installing solar panels at their home or workplace. However, solar PV power systems are now being seen as an investment in electricity generation with lower energy prices and less risk than burning traditional fossil fuels. Here are a few of the reasons why:

1: Distributed Energy (Net Metering) – Investor-owned utilities in New York are required to offer net metering to residents that install a PV system (up to 25 kW) or other types of renewable energy generators.  Net metering is a billing method that “pays” customers (i.e. gives them a credit towards their utility bill) with renewable energy generators for the electricity they supply to the grid. Public utility companies are not required to offer net metering, however many in New York do.

2: Higher Energy Prices – This past February, the price for a kilowatt hour of electricity in New York State was 19.76 cents, which is about 7 cents higher than the national average (12.29 cents/kwhr). By using solar to offset grid electricity consumption, New Yorkers are saving more on their utility bill than customers in other states with lower electricity prices. Additionally, as energy prices continue to rise, solar owners will see a faster return on their investment.

3: Financial Incentives – New York has hefty state rebates and tax credits for solar owners who qualify to help cover the high upfront investment in a PV system. Solar purchases are also exempt from property and sales taxes.

4: Required Solar – New York has set a mandatory renewable portfolio standard (RPS) goal of 22.5% energy from renewable sources by 2020. Within that goal there is a 2% solar carve-out, which means that New York needs more solar to meet their goal!

As New York continues to support renewable energy development, solar companies are also working to create cheaper, more efficient systems. Whether you care about the environment, want save (or potentially make) money through your utility bills, or protect yourself from future energy price spikes, solar installation is clearly a smart choice.


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3 thoughts on “Solar Outlook in New York”

  1. In Los Angeles, where the average cost of electricity is even more – $.215 per kW hour – that’s very attractive. Of course, water is always a rate limiting factor. Dirty solar panels can lose up to 25% of the power you thought you were buying. A compromise is to clean in spring and summer when you will get the most bang for your buck. This is an approach some of the big desert farms take, although that’s when water is at a premium too. For homeowners, it may be cheaper to take the hit on power or clean them yourself.

  2. The New York Institute of Technology debuted a provocative challenge to ‘standard’ solar at the 2005 Solar Decathlon. They used their solar system to generate the power for electrolysis to break down water into hydrogen and oxygen. In place of batteries, they collected the hydrogen and safely stored it in a pressure vessel with redundant fail safe mechanisms, and powered their house from that.

    This was pretty complex engineering at the time. In their own post mortem the school abandoned the technology for their next entry because it was too expensive to compete with batteries (but of course they weren’t computing the cost of recycling those deep cycle monsters!).

    With hydrogen capture systems getting more efficient I think this remains a tantalizing prospect. NREL, for example, is experimenting with wind, fermentation and solar to make hydrogen for power.

  3. Solar is incredible, and getting closer to grid parity is nice to see. Particularly, as you mentioned, where other energy prices are so high. True grid parity is something that I cannot wait for, the advancements of which should catapult a number of industries into overdrive.

    One must be a bit careful about point #3. You can call it grid parity when part of the construction bill is footed by tax incentives, but there is a noticeable drop in year-by-year installments when those incentives are lost in favor of other projects. NREL’s 20% Wind Energy by 2030 Feasibility Study [] states, “Wind energy prices have increased since 2002 for the following reasons…The on-again, off-again cycle of the wind energy PTC (uncertainty
    hinders investment in new turbine production facilities and encourages hurried and expensive production, transportation, and installation of projects when the tax credit is available.” (p. 27) The same issue must be watched for in any energy industry. Continuous production tax credits and continued technology improvements need to be maintained to better assist the renewable energy markets.

    Newer solar generation plants are even surpassing low-cost energy. Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park recently claimed a $0.0598/kWh LCOE for their projected 1 GW installation. A number of factors helped that number, but it illustrates that given the right conditions, solar can surpass even cheap fossil fuel generation techniques. []

    Given, silicon has become rather cheaper due to a step-up in production, a far cry from the out-of-stock graphics cards that were being seen a few years ago from lack of supply. The Shockley–Queisser limit delineates solar efficiency, and silicon is stuck down at 29% at its theoretical best. New materials and methods that concentrate sunlight or stack p-n junctions improve this very significantly, however.

    Deborah mentioned water and hydrogen generation. One of the easier to deduce effects of having an excess of available, renewable, cheap power is the sudden ease of electrolysis and also desalination. Hopefully, the technologies can all interact to produce enough clean water to help solve water shortage, create usable hydrogen gas, and clean solar panels reliably all at the same time (and the pollution their production leaves behind).

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