Much of the solar industry’s attention of late has been focused on the loss of important solar incentives from national governments, including the end of the 1603 grant program in the U.S. However, the Solar Energy Industries Association announced plans at the start of the year, just as the 1603 program was closing up, to shift its focus substantially toward the states rather than the federal government. The group even joined with the state-oriented Solar Alliance to further the interests of the industry.
Recent events have borne out the wisdom in that approach with the announcement of several new programs on the state and local levels that could prove similarly beneficial to solar installers without the stout opposition seen at the national level.
Early in January, KPCC reported that the Los Angles Department of Water and Power has settled on a new idea to support the city’s massive solar industry. Several of the city’s and the state’s solar incentives have run into issues with funding as interest at the original rates proved far higher than anticipated.
Nonetheless, looking to increase solar capacity, but wary of committing to the open-ended solar incentives that led to such rapid depletion in funding, the DWP has suggested the possibility of a feed-in tariff similar to an extent to that used in Germany. This policy would enable the DWP to purchase solar energy from building owners who add commercial solar installations at a premium price for an extended period. Unlike with residential solar installations, these contracts are generally quite large and allow for more predictable costs as well as production.
At present, the feed-in tariff is limited to a 10-megawatt demonstration project, but successful implementation of that could lead eventually to another 75 megawatts of rooftop solar installation and potentially as much as 600 megawatts.
The goal of the Los Angeles project, in large part, is to make efficient use of large rooftops on places such as apartment buildings, warehouses and stores. A similar policy has now gone into effect in New York City, according to PV Magazine.
The New York State Energy Research Development Authority and the New York Public Service Commission have joined forces to create a $150 million, 5-year program they hope could substantially boost investment in commercial solar installations in the city. Already, New York hosts solar installations on several of its landfills, but such a heavily built-up area features countless rooftops that could prove effective sites for such solar systems.
The state already has given out $30 million to 15 businesses, from solar installers to real estate developers, for the purpose of adding some major solar installations. Particularly in New York, where the electrical grid faces substantial demand and constant strain as that demand shifts throughout the day, solar systems on these larger buildings are appealing for stability purposes. By locating solar installations on buildings that are likely to use all of the energy produced, the city hopes to minimize the risk of too much electricity being put back into the grid.
New York state itself could soon see some major new solar incentives as well, as it looks to spur its solar sector past its smaller neighbor, New Jersey. The Albany Times Union reports that Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced his new NY-SUN Solar Program in his second State of the State address. The program would extend sales tax exemptions on solar installations to commercial customers from only residential customers. In addition, the state’s income tax credit for solar systems would be opened up to solar leasing, offering 12.5 percent of the annual cost of the lease.
These represent only small steps forward for solar, but they are also a marked difference from the prevailing winds at the national level.
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