Solar power plays a vital role in moving the world off fossil fuel use and onto renewable sources of energy. Solar photovoltaic panels are a low cost, high impact solution in which light (photons) knocks electrons off of atoms, creating electricity. By the middle of 2022 approximately 126.1 gigawatts(GW) of photovoltaic (PV) solar capacity had been installed across the US, enough to power 22 million average American homes. This is the equivalent of taking 30 million cars off the road. The price of solar PV panels dropped 50% between 2012 and 2022, and the solar industry now employs more than 230,000 people. Nonetheless, in 2022 only 4% of US electricity came from solar.
New York State
Solar power is currently a small, but growing, source of energy for New York State and an important component to achieving New York State’s goal of 70% renewable electricity generation by 2030. By the beginning of 2022 NYS had 3,586 megawatts of installed solar, enough to power almost 592,000 homes. Solar provided 3.28% of NYS’s electricity. With an overall goal of 70% of electricity generated from renewable sources by 2030, the state has set a goal of 6,000 megawatts of installed solar by 2025. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has a number of programs intended to facilitate the build-out of more solar, including supporting a number of utility-scale projects across the state. Through its NY-Sun program, NYSERDA provides information and guidance on installing solar to home and business owners, including low-income owners.
A number of organizations in New York State support the shift to solar. Some like New Yorkers for Clean Power offer webinars and other resources, as well as advocate for solar adopters. Others like Energy Democracy Alliance focus on public policy regarding utilities whose pricing mechanisms for excess solar delivered to the electrical grid strongly influence the economics of adopting solar by individual home and business owners.
New York City
New York City has a goal of 1,000 megawatts of solar electricity generation by 2030, enough energy to power 250,000 homes. As of the fall of 2021, 305 megawatts had been installed. The Mayor’s Office of Climate and Environmental Justice has a program intended to increase the use of solar energy by public buildings, and a program, ElectrifyNYC1-4, to train community groups to offer solar. In 2022, the Office launched a new planning program called Power Up. City Council passed Local Laws 92 and 94 that require all new buildings to either have a green roof or rooftop solar.
Tax credits, low-interest loans, and other incentives for installing solar on buildings are sometimes offered by city, state, and federal authorities and by utilities. These are highly variable as some are good only in particular years or are available only to specific applicants or until a program has met its quota. You can start your research by looking at the information provided by by New York City, New York State, Brooklyn Solar Works, and Con Edison
Most New York City residences and businesses get their electricity through the private utility Con Edison. While all users must have a Con Edison account and pay a baseline fee to Con Edison to be connected to the electrical grid, electricity customers can opt to buy their actual electricity from an Energy Service Company or ESCO. Some ESCOs provide some or all of their electricity from renewable sources. However, the price per kilowatt-hour and the terms of service vary widely among ESCOs, so one needs to shop very carefully.