New York Leads U.S. on Community Solar
New York’s Two Gigawatts of Community Solar Provides Equitable Access to Renewable Energy
New York’s clean energy transition is spurring renewable energy development across the state. As of December 2023, more than two gigawatts (GW) of community solar have been installed in New York – enough to power nearly 400,000 homes.
This two GW milestone reaffirms New York’s position as the leading community solar market in the U.S., with nearly one-third of the nation’s 6.2 GW of community solar capacity located in New York . It also marks considerable progress towards achieving New York’s Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act goal to install six GW of distributed solar by 2025.
By participating in community solar, New Yorkers can receive electric bills savings, reduce their carbon footprint, and support local clean energy jobs. Read on for more on how community solar works, finding a project, and how New York is charging renewable energy forward.
What is Community Solar?
Community solar refers to an offsite solar project that generates renewable energy for multiple customers, which may include homes, apartments, small businesses, and municipal buildings.
Energy produced by a community solar project (sometimes called solar farm) is fed into the grid, and customers receive credits on their monthly electric bills (i.e., savings) for their share of the renewably sourced electricity.
A community solar provider will assess a customer’s historical electricity consumption to size their portion of the project so that it offsets their annual usage. Most projects follow the subscription model outlined above, though a subset of projects allow customers to purchase offsite panels to unlock greater long-term savings.
As of 2023, more than 800 community solar projects are currently operating in New York State . Community solar is developed on a variety of sites, including commercial rooftops, landfills, brownfield sites, and other suitable properties. Projects typically last between 15 to 25 years and are required to have a decommissioning plan to remove and recycle panels and ensure the land is restored to its original state at the end of the lease.
Getting Started With Community Solar
How Does Community Solar Work?
New Yorkers have the power to choose where their electricity comes from, but only if they pay their own electric bill. If utilities are included in your lease agreement, you can still encourage the property owner to join if they’re eligible. Homes, businesses, and other buildings that already have onsite solar are also ineligible to join a community solar project.
If you – like most New Yorkers – are eligible for community solar, there are a few steps and considerations to keep in mind when getting started.
Projects with subscription plans will outline the length of the term in the contract, though many operate month-to-month and allow customers to cancel without penalty if they move or choose to install onsite solar. When comparing options, keep in mind that community solar subscribers typically receive a discount of 5-10% off the cost of their electricity consumption each year. Besides expected savings, check to see if rates in the subscription are fixed, promotional, or subject to change over time.
It usually takes one to three months for community solar enrollment to take effect and start receiving bill credits. Joining a project that’s currently online or one that’s nearly full could help expedite this timeline.
For community solar projects offering a purchase option, it’s important to understand the available tax credits, contract length, applicable service or maintenance fees, and return on investment.
To browse and compare community solar projects, use the interactive map below. Interested customers can also explore the list of registered community solar providers maintained by the Department of Public Service.
Income-eligible New Yorkers also have the option to join Solar for All to subscribe to a community solar project and access guaranteed savings.
Making Clean Energy More Affordable and Accessible
Investing in rooftop or ground-mounted solar for your home or building can provide long-term savings and boost resilience to power outages and fluctuating energy prices. But installing solar isn’t always feasible due to an unsuitable roof, tree shading, or if you’re among the 46% of New Yorkers who rent their home .
The community solar model helps break through these barriers that have prevented many New Yorkers from accessing the benefits of solar.
Additionally, NYSERDA’s Inclusive Community Solar Adder is encouraging developers, via higher incentive rates, to invest in community solar projects serving low-to-moderate (LMI) subscribers, affordable housing, and other facilities serving Disadvantaged Communities.
The Inflation Reduction Act is Boosting Community Solar Development
New York is on the path to installing 10 GW of distributed solar by 2030.
New York’s nation-leading community solar portfolio is poised for continued growth due to state-level incentives and federal investment.
The passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) in 2022 established a 30% federal tax credit for all solar projects until 2033. Like New York’s Inclusive Community Solar Adder, the IRA provides bonus incentives for community solar projects serving low-income customers.
Specifically, projects can receive a 10% bonus tax credit for being sited in a low-income community or 20% tax credit for projects that allocate the majority of benefits to low-income customers. Projects sited in energy communities or those that meeting domestic content requirements are also eligible for bonus IRA tax credits .
Learn More: Inflation Reduction Act for Businesses
More on Renewable Energy Development
Continue reading about New York’s clean energy transition.
- Counties Leading the Charge on Clean Energy: Learn how Albany, Broome, and Yates Counties are curbing municipal emissions and advancing renewable energy in their communities.
- NYS Guide to Inflation Reduction Act Savings: Find out how IRA tax credits and New York State incentives are driving investment in renewable energy and low-carbon equipment.
- Recapping Climate Week NYC 2023: Take a look back at New York’s major clean energy announcements and milestones during the weeklong climate summit.
- Transforming Brownfields for a Greener Future: Learn about New York’s work to advance renewable energy development on underused spaces.
- Community solar. SEIA. (n.d.). https://www.seia.org/initiatives/community-solar Back to content
- McCoy, M., & Farrell, J. (2023, December 18). National Community Solar Programs tracker. Institute for Local Self-Reliance. https://ilsr.org/national-community-solar-programs-tracker/ . Back to content
- Homeownership rates in New York. Office of the New York State Comptroller. (n.d.). https://www.osc.ny.gov/reports/homeownership-rates-new-york Back to content
- Federal Solar Tax Credits for Businesses. Energy.gov. (n.d.). https://www.energy.gov/eere/solar/federal-solar-tax-credits-businesses Back to content
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