The rate at which state incentives for solar energy installations will decline were unveiled by the governor’s office Thursday.
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced new plans that call for merging residential and non-residential programs into one joint program called the NY-Sun Initiative.
The new Megawatt Block Structure plan divides more than 3,000 megawatts of future solar power into three regional sectors — Upstate, Con Edison and Long Island. Each region is being allotted a certain megawatt limit, segmented into nine blocks of incentive rates. Those incentives will decrease by 10 cents each time a block fills up. The state currently offers incentives of $1 for each watt of solar capacity installed.
Western New York falls into the Upstate block, which was allotted 444 megawatts for residential installations and 451 megawatts for non-residential.
The $1-per-watt incentive block for Upstate customers, which opened at the beginning of the year, is 79 percent full. The incentive rate will likely decrease to 90 cents per watt by the end of the year, based on the rate the current block is filling up.
One kilowatt is equal to 1,000 watts; one megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts.
For example, homeowners who install a 7-kilowatt solar array — an average-sized system — on their roofs would receive $7,000 in New York State Energy and Research Development Agency rebates to use toward the systems. A 7-kilowatt installation, at a rate of $5 per watt, would cost roughly $35,000 before incentives are factored in, based on average rates charged by contractors.
Incentives have driven residential and non-residential installations across the state. Last month, NYSERDA announced there have been nearly 10,000 solar installations since 2003.
All together, the incentive program is expected to expire by 2023 when it reaches the allotted energy amount. It could run out sooner, depending on the rate of installations across New York.
“Merging these programs into the NY-Sun Incentive Program will stimulate development of solar projects across this state, and sends a clear message that New York is a leader in solar energy innovation,” Cuomo said in a statement. “This approach will help the industry plan for the future, spur new development and aid in New York’s transition to a cleaner, cheaper and more efficient energy grid.”
As part of NY-Sun, Cuomo also announced an increased commitment to educational programs, among other efforts, so that consumers can become more informed on investing in solar energy.
The program, which has existed for two years solely to fund non-residential projects, has helped produce 316 megawatts in solar installations across the state. That accounts for approximately 116,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, or the equivalent of removing 23,000 cars from the road for the two-year time frame, the governor’s office said.
Funding for NYSERDA solar incentives consists of public dollars that come from charges on the bills of electric customers.
Federal renewable energy incentives are also offered in the form of tax credits at a 30 percent rate. Those are set to expire in 2016.