New York merges solar programs under NY-Sun initiative

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The U.S. state of New York is bundling multiple solar programs into the single, statewide NY-Sun Incentive Program.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said last week that the move would support the state’s vibrant solar economy through the $1 billion NY-Sun initiative, which would significantly expand deployment of solar, add more than 3 GW to the state’s solar capacity and ultimately transform New York’s solar market into a self-sustaining industry.

"This approach will help the industry plan for the future, spur new development and aid in New York’s transition to a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient energy grid,” Cuomo said.

The NY-Sun initiative provides financial support for solar projects using a megawatt block system approach that is responsive to changing market conditions, allowing the solar market in each region of the state to grow at its own pace. Under the NY-Sun initiative, incentives will be eliminated sooner in regions where market conditions can support solar based on market penetration, customer demand and payback, according to Cuomo’s office.

The government expects to add more than 3 GW of installed solar capacity in the state by 2023.

"The days of start-and-stop solar incentive programs are over,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). “The NY-Sun Incentive Program will provide much needed funding certainty and transparency to the market to stimulate continued private sector growth of the solar industry.”

The megawatt block system divides the state into three regions – Con Edison territory, Long Island and Upstate. Each region is assigned separate megawatt blocks and incentive levels for residential solar projects up to 25 kW and small non-residential solar projects up to 200 kW. When the megawatt 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 megawatt target and a lower incentive level. Once all of the blocks for a particular region and sector are filled, an incentive for that region and sector will no longer be offered.

NYSERDA will work closely with utility PSEG Long Island, which will administer the program on Long Island, New York Power Authority staff and the state’s PV industry during the transition, which is scheduled to be completed by August 28.

The megawatt blocks and incentives for large commercial systems over 200 kW will be available in 2015. Customers can access financing for solar projects through Green Jobs-Green New York.

While growth of solar in the residential sector has been very successful on Long Island, small non-residential solar growth has been slower. The NY-Sun Incentive Program increases the size of non-residential systems eligible for incentives from 100 kW to 200 kW and also provides incentives for non-residential systems that are installed through Power Purchase Agreements and leases, a strategy that is expected to stimulate market investment.

In addition to the megawatt block system, the NY-Sun initiative also offers such programs as:

  • NYS Unified Solar Permit and the Photovoltaic Trainers Network, which streamline solar inspection and permitting processes
  • Community Solar/K-Solar, which provide communities and schools with the tools and expertise to install solar energy in their areas and educational facilities and help schools act as community hubs for solar education
  • Low-to-Moderate-Income Photovoltaic Working Group, which identifies ways to make solar accessible for low-and moderate-income residents
  • Consumer education for potential solar customers
  • Photovoltaic balance-of-system research and development projects supported by NYSERDA and the New York Power Authority to reduce costs of photovoltaic components other than solar modules
  • New York Power Authority’s support for increased solar use has also included its Solar Market Acceleration Program, which reduces solar balance-of-system costs in New York State.

In the first two years of NY-Sun, a total of 316 MW of solar photovoltaic has been installed or is under contract, more than was installed in the entire prior decade.