Major Solar Expansion in New York City

As part of the Climate Week celebrations, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the solar capacity of the City has nearly quadrupled, up to 96 MW of electricity, compared to the 25 MW at the start of his Administration. This year alone, the number of installations is already soaring over 8,000 panels (with over 3,000 on public buildings), over 4 times as many as his first year in office. This increase in growth meets the goal of OneNYC 200 MW of solar power on public buildings, and 250MW on private buildings by 2025.

As part of this, and in an effort to help revamp and renew the solar program in NYC, the Mayor has announced a commitment to remove any barriers in place to bring the City’s solar capacity to over 1,000 MW by 2030, or enough power for over 250,000 households. As part of this, de Blasio is committed to ensuring round-the-clock availability to renewable energy, by setting a target of 100 megawatt-hours of energy stored by 2020, reducing reliance on the grid, providing functionality of the City off the grid, and bringing solar energy into a new frontier.

The Department of Buildings has recently redesigned their process for solar panel job reviews, which include: Allowing small scale solar installation projects to enter the Professional Certification program, hiring additional plan examiners, and providing additional examiner training focused on solar panel installation jobs

Solar by Borough:
Staten Island: 30.3 MW; 3,493 installations;  600% increase pre-2014
Queens: 18.5 MW ; 1,703 installations, 275% increase pre-2014
Brooklyn & Bronx: doubled installations & capacity pre-2014 but a lower magnitude
Manhattan: smallest growth of nominal value

Both public and private solar installations are making strides in increased capacity. In the private sector, the installed capacity has increased up to 69 MW, from the 24 MW at the end of 2013, with Staten Island leading with 30 MW installed. Citywide, there are over 2,000 projects leading to 17 MW of expanded capacity. To incentivize going solar, the city has expanded funding of SolarizeNYC, as well as Shared Solar NYC, under the  NYC Solar Partnership led by Sustainable CUNY.

Solar installations on public buildings account for approximately 9 MW, and are rapidly growing. These public buildings include City Hall, 35 public schools (with projects underway leading to over 100 schools), and some larger facilities such as the Port Richmond Wastewater Treatment Plant. Later this year, a report will be released discussing the progress and potential of solar installation throughout the City.

With this increase in demand, the 2,700 plus jobs in the city relating to solar will only increase, as well as provide clean energy to communities in the city that currently rely on nonrenewable sources. The goal of expanding solar capacity goes far beyond environmental benefits, providing for public health improvements, local job creation, and economic benefits citywide.

Job Creation and Equitable Distribution

In addition to Job Creation, ALIGN released Climate Works for All Coalition’s report on how the City can use solar to provide benefits to the job market, and communities. In 2016, New York City owned buildings were estimated to pay approximately $744 million for their heat, light and power – 80%, or $595.2 million, is attributed to electricity.

Part of the recommendation in the report is to centralize the theme of equity around public renewable energy projects. Doing so will open the door for local, well-paying jobs; provide for safe working conditions with the public interest at heart; allow for transparent cost/benefit analysis; and provide exponential savings that could lead to funding apprentice training or even further energy efficiency retrofits. They also provide recommendations on proper funding mechanisms, such as bond sales, to keep the public interest at heart – straying away from the current funding of Power Purchase Agreements which lead to lower overall energy savings, meaning less funding available for re-investment and job creation, programming, and training.

“As part of our OneNYC plan, and in order to meet our 80 x 50 goal, we made a commitment to install 100 MW of solar power on public buildings and 250 MW on private buildings by 2025,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “I am happy to announce we’re on track to meet that goal having quadrupled solar capacity since 2013. This rapid progress has inspired us to expand that goal to 1,000 MW of solar power city wide – which has the potential to power more than 250,000 homes. There’s only one New York, and we must do everything we can to ensure it’s protected for future generations.”

“‎New York City’s new solar and energy storage goals will bring even more clean energy jobs, cleaner air, and electric system benefits to the Big Apple, and will help us get the most out of our solar resources,” said Donna De Costanzo, director of Northeast Energy and Sustainable Communities at the Natural Resources Defense Council.