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PR- 262-10
June 8, 2010


Record Number of New Yorkers Have Applied for Solar Panel Abatements in 2010

Furthers PlaNYC Goal of Reducing Carbon Emissions by 30% by 2030

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri today announced that the City and Sustainable CUNY have created three Solar Empowerment Zones, strategically selected areas where solar power systems are most beneficial and technically viable, and where development of solar power will be encouraged. Solar power is a reliable, renewable source of electricity for New York City that reduces demand on the City's electrical grid. Encouraging solar energy production furthers PlaNYC's goal of providing cleaner, more reliable power for every New Yorker.   The City's solar initiatives were discussed today at the 4th Annual New York City Solar Summit, held at John Jay College in Manhattan.

"In PlaNYC, the City's long-term blueprint for a greener, greater New York, we set ambitious targets for upgrading the City's aging energy infrastructure so we can stay competitive with cities around the world and fight climate change," said Mayor Bloomberg. "We also want to increase the use of renewable energy sources, including solar power. We've cut through the red tape that used to bog down solar projects, and there is now 3.5 megawatts of solar power installed on City rooftops, a number we will increase significantly through tax incentives and our new Solar Empowerment Zones."

"Solar energy is a key to New York's future as a sustainable city," said Buildings Commissioner Robert LiMandri. "These building owners save money through reduced energy bills and tax rebates while lowering air pollution and stress on the City's electrical grid.  With the creation of the Solar Empowerment Zones, I am confident that we will continue to see the number of solar panel systems increase."

"As our nation confronts the ongoing environmental crisis in the Gulf Coast, we are painfully reminded yet again of the need for the United States to expeditiously consider how to appropriately transition to clean energy sources," said CUNY Chancellor Matthew Goldstein. "CUNY,  in a unique partnership with the City and the State, is taking the lead by constructing the ‘Solar Pipeline’, which includes a Solar Map and Solar Empowerment Zones that will hasten the integration of solar energy into our nation’s largest city and most complex grid."

"The creation of the Solar Empowerment Zones directs resources to areas in the city where solar installations can have the greatest impact," said Deputy Mayor Stephen Goldsmith, "By focusing on neighborhoods that need additional capacity to meet projected demand, we can make our grid more resilient and forestall costly infrastructure improvements."

"Establishing Solar Zones will help target solar installations where they make the most sense," said New York City Economic Development President Seth W. Pinsky. "This will provide environmental benefits and help create green jobs in the New York City solar industry."

"New York City has over 1.6 billion square feet of rooftops," said Adam Freed, the City's Acting Director of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. "Through the Solar America City partnership, led by Sustainable CUNY, we are helping unlock the potential of this underutilized resource to increase the reliability of the City's energy network while reducing our greenhouse gas emissions, central goals of PlaNYC."

The Mayor and the Buildings Commissioner also announced that 25 solar panel tax abatement applications for buildings across the City were approved this year - five times the number approved last year.  Property owners who installed solar panels by March 15 are eligible to receive a four-year tax abatement that will significantly reduce the overall cost of the systems.
The City is also working with Consolidated Edison and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) to streamline the permitting process for solar installations, in anticipation of up to 45 megawatts of new solar capacity expected to be installed over the next five years.

Creation of Solar Empowerment Zones
The three Solar Empowerment Zones - on the East Shore of Staten Island, in Downtown Brooklyn, and in Brooklyn's Greenpoint-Gateway section-were designed to reduce peak electricity demand and the associated pollution from dirty plants that operate when demand is at its highest, while also potentially deferring or eliminating the need for costly upgrades to the electrical system.  The Zones were selected by the Solar America City Partnership and an advisory group consisting of representatives from several City agencies, Consolidated Edison, the New York Department of Public Service, NYSERDA, and the New York Power Authority.  Each of the three zones has a "day-peaking" energy usage profile that conforms closely to the daily production of solar power, and ample rooftop space to accommodate solar installations. The three zones are also in need of moderate capacity upgrades or demand reduction measures over the next few years in order to meet expected load growth. Focusing solar development in these zones will not only improve the reliability and sustainability of the City's electrical system, but also provide a testing ground for programs that could be expanded throughout New York City.

Solar Panel Tax Abatements & Installations

To encourage the use of sustainable technology, the City offers property tax abatements to property owners that install solar panels on their building's rooftops.  The Department of Buildings reviews each abatement application to ensure that the building can support the solar panels and that the installation meets requirements in the Building Code, Fire Code and Zoning Resolution. Department inspectors also perform two inspections of each system - a construction inspection and an electrical inspection - to verify that the installation does not compromise the safety of the building and its surroundings. Once approved, the Department of Finance can issue a tax credit.  This year, property owners will receive a property tax abatement of 35% of the eligible expenditures over four years with a maximum abatement of $62,500 per year for four years or the building's annual tax liability, whichever is less.

Under the solar panel tax abatement program, solar panels have been installed at 25 buildings across the City, five times the number of systems approved and installed last year.  Solar panels have been installed at buildings ranging from large commercial factories in the Bronx to small one-family homes in the Rockaways.  Savings from these installations vary on the size and type of the building.  A single-family house can save approximately $2,600 a year on energy costs.  Property owners can also receive rebates from their utility company as well as the State and Federal government.

Streamlining Permitting of Solar Panel Systems

To ensure that a solar panel system is installed safely, approval is required from the Department of Buildings' construction and electrical units, the local utility and, in certain situations, the Fire Department. Property owners may also submit documentation to NYSERDA to seek additional grants. To make it easier for building owners to coordinate their application amongst the various City, State and private entities, the Department of Buildings is working with the City University of New York (CUNY), NYSERDA and Con Edison to develop a web-based platform to streamline the permitting process for solar panel installations.

Solar American City Partnership

The NYC Solar America City Partnership, led by Sustainable CUNY, is comprised of CUNY, the New York City Economic Development Corporation and the Mayor's Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability. Building on early progress, NYC was awarded over one million dollars in January of 2010 from the U.S. Department of Energy and NYSERDA to transform New York City into a Smart Solar City.

Building owners interested in learning more about PlaNYC and the City's sustainable initiatives can visit for more information.

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