New Yorkers are signing on to go solar at historic rates

Our President Gaelen McKee is featured in the Daily News article, "New Yorkers are signing on to go solar at historic rates." Thanks to Katherine Clarke at the Daily News for putting together this article about solar in NYC. You can read the full length article here

Favorite quote around the office right now:

"Solar isn't just for hippies and rich people it actually does make a ton of sense" - Gaelen McKee

Just to give you a sense on how historic the amount of people going solar in NYC is here is a chart showing solar permits filed in NYC for the past few years. Its a rocket ship!

 Credit: NYC Solar Permits Look Up

Credit: NYC Solar Permits Look Up

Small Commercial Solar in NYC

It is a golden era for solar in New York City. Driven by high electric rates, rich incentives and the ever falling price of solar panels, building owners can now save hundreds of thousands of dollars by switching to clean, renewable solar energy. Whether you just bought your first brownstone or inherited the family business, if you are paying an electric bill and have a roof that receives lots of sun, solar is worth looking into.

Most solar systems that are installed in the country nowadays take advantage of what’s called net metering. Net metering allows for a system to generate electricity in excess of what is being consumed in the building and receive credit for the oversupply. The electricity literally flows back into the grid and the meter spins backwards accruing credit until demand exceeds generation, at which point the meter spins forwards and any built up credit is applied. For every kilowatt hour a solar system supplies the grid, the owner is able to pull one kilowatt hour back from the grid free of charge. In this manner, a system tends to over produce relative to a buildings needs during the day so that at night, the building can draw electricity back from the grid without being charged.

To find out home much energy you use and how much solar generation your site will support, interested business and homeowners should contact a NYSERDA certified installer to come out and conduct a site inspection, which will involve a look at the roof, a look at the electrical panel and a look at the utility bill. Once you know the size and cost, you can then calculate the incentives that are available for going solar, compare your savings to what you would have paid the utility and thus determine a payback period and a total savings scenario.

In terms of incentives, small commercial (under 200 kilowatts) in New York City has some of the riches incentives in the country, qualifying for a state rebate, a federal investment tax credit, a New York City specific property tax abatement and accelerated depreciation.

To illustrate these incentives let’s take a 100 kilowatt, small commercial solar system, which would produce roughly 120,000 kilowatt hours annually, enough to power most small businesses. A fair price for this system, assuming a straightforward installation would be around $3.5 per watt, bringing the total to $350,000 (100,000 watts * $3.5 per watt). The state rebate for this small commercial system in Con Edison territory is $.80 per watt for the first 50,000 watts and $.50 per watt for the next 150,000 watts. At 100,000 watts that comes to $65,000. Most installers will take the rebate directly and reduce it from the total cost of the system so in this scenario, a customer would pay $285,000 for the turn-key system.

Upon purchase the owner then receives a 30% investment tax credit on the cost of the system minus the rebate, or $85,500 ($285,000 * 30%) It is important to note that this is a tax credit, not a deduction, so assuming the business has the tax liability, they will get $85,500 back when they do their taxes. If they do not have the tax liability to use the credit in full in year one it can be carried over for the following four years.

On top of the federal investment tax credit, business owners installing solar in New York City will also qualify for a 20% property tax abatement. The abatement is also calculated on the post rebate value and in our example would equal $57,000 ($285,000 * 20%). This abatement is applied in quarters over four years, so each year a customer would pay $14,250 less on their property taxes.

The final incentive available to commercial projects is accelerated depreciation, more specifically, the Modified Accelerated Cost Recovery System (MACRS), which is a method of depreciation where business investments such a solar can be recovered for tax purposes over five years through annual deductions. Although the value of this incentive will depend on one's tax bracket, it is roughly equal to 25% of the post rebate value and in our example, at a 30% federal tax rate it would equal $72,675 as a cash benefit.

So to summarize, a 100 kW system, producing 120,000 kWh annually would break down as follows:

Total Cost - $350,000

Rebate to installer - $65,000

Cost to customer to purchase the system - $285,000

Federal investment tax credit to customer - $85,500 (claimable in year one)

Property tax abatement to customer - $57,000 (applied in quarters over four years)

Accelerated Depreciation to customer - $72,675 (schedule for deduction applied over 5 years)

Net after all incentives - $69,825

If we assume the value of a kilowatt hour to be $.17 factoring out the demand charge that solar is not guaranteed to offset, than 120,000 kWh equals $20,400 worth of electricity annually. That means it will take about 4 years to recoup the solar investment. With guarantees on the equipment that span 25 years, a customer would save $673,944 by going solar over the same period assuming a 3% annual increase in electricity rates. And if the upfront cost is too much to swallow, there is a myriad of loan and leasing options available that will also produce consider savings and allow building owners to go solar for little to zero money out of pocket.

As you may imagine, these incentives are so rich that they will not be available forever. The federal investment tax credit is slated to expire at the end of 2016 and the state rebate is continuously dropping as more people go solar. With so much state and federal support for going solar if you have the ability to do so, now is the time.

NY Solar Summit

Yesterday was the NY Solar Summit. It was a time to reflect on all the success we have had so far in deploying solar in the Empire State and a time to plan for the future and where we want the industry to go. It was also a time to pitch our solar canopy to an audience of solar aficionados. That's right, Brooklyn SolarWorks was selected along with three other companies to participate in the NY Solar Summit pitch contest. The prize? $500 and some bragging rights. The result? Well, the competition was fierce. We went up against Blue Pillar, an energy management solutions system, Energy Sage, a solar quote aggregator and comparison platform, and Sunverge, an integrated solar management and energy storage system. All three companies have seen considerable success and for Brooklyn SolarWorks to even be placed in the same competition was an honor. That said, we lost. When it came down to it the four panelist decided that Sunverge was the company best suited to advance New York's Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) agenda. Yet while we did not win over the judges, we did win over the audience taking the peoples choice award. So we say, congratulations Sunverge! Let's give everybody what they want and build hundreds of canopies with Sunverge integrated solar and storage systems. 

It's Getting Hot Out There

Time to add a solar canopy on your roof. It provides shade and keeps things cooler during those hot summer days. It's also a great idea to paint your roof white. A white roof can reflect up to 90% of the sunlight that hits it, as opposed to a black roof which reflects 20%. Our recommendation, paint it white and commission a Prism bi-facial panel canopy so that the light that reflects off your roof hits the backside of your solar canopy, generating extra electricity. Prism Solar is also a New York based panel manufacturer. Keep it local. 

Here's TR and Matt measuring for a future canopy on top of a beautiful brownstone in Boerum Hill. Time to solarize Brooklyn! 

Spring and Sun

What a day it was. Lots of sun and cooler spring temps make for very productive solar systems. We designed and measured for a 15 panel solar canopy to sit atop a beautifully renovated Park Slope brownstone. The system is estimated to produce 5,400 kWh annually, generating more than enough power for the home. Time for a hot tub? 

TR Giving a Solar Lesson

Last week the BSW crew met with the homeowner of a beautiful brownstone in Park Slope and took measurements for what will be one of many future roof top solar canopies. The wind was strong, the temperature was low but the excitement was extremely palpable. The roof had it's obstacles - vent pipes, skylights, hatches and chimneys. Most solar companies wouldn't think you could put solar on the roof but we do. We're currently coming up with a custom solution for the homeowner so that he and his family can enjoy their beautiful rooftop view while also getting the satisfaction of running their house off the sun.