Going Solar Just Got Much Much Easier for New York

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As anyone who has taken on a remodeling project knows, more time can be spent preparing for the project than for the actual installation. Homeowners who try to install a residential solar photovoltaic (PV) system often face complicated processes to get the permits that will not only ensure that their projects are up to code, but that they’ll be eligible for solar rebates and incentive programs.

For many residents of New York, going solar is about to become a whole lot simpler. In fact, a process that once took months could now take less than two weeks.

Streamlined Path to Solar

The Long Island Power Authority (LIPA) recently announced that they are partnering with planning commissions in Nassau County and Suffolk County to create a streamlined and standardized permitting process for residential PV systems and solar hot water systems throughout Long Island.

The regional collaboration that helped formed the new initiative included government officials, industry representatives and advocates for renewable energy. The regional initiative is believed to first of its kind in the country.

LIPA, a not-for-profit electric utility that provides electric service for more than 1 million customers in Nassau County, Suffolk County and the Rockaway Peninsula, has been a significant player in the nation’s push to become less dependent on fossil fuels. The company’s solar programs have rebated over $100 million for over four thousand PV installations.

Formerly, each town and village had their own set of regulations for PV installations. This not only created confusion among homeowners and solar installers, but caused delays and frequently added to the expense of the installations as well. The new solar permitting process is expected to cover more than 80% of new solar installations.

New Incentives for New Yorkers

To incentivize municipalities to join the effort, LIPA offered $15,000 to each township and $5,000 to villages that adopted the key components of the plan by the end of 2011.

Here’s what homeowners in the area can expect from the new initiative:

  • Application fees will be minimal or waived.
  • Permits will be accepted or denied with 14 days of submittal.
  • A “Solar Energy System Fast Track Permit Application” will replace existing building permit forms.
  • A central registry of all solar installations will be created.
  • Safety warning labels will be standardized.

Gordian Raacke, Executive Director for the not-for-profit group Renewable Energy Long Island, praised the new program. “Inconsistent local permit requirements can add hundreds of dollars to the cost of installing a solar electric system,” he said.

Raacke expects that the new permitting system will not only make installing a home solar system easier and cheaper, but will help ensure that the systems are properly designed and installed as well.

Michael Hervey, LIPA’s Chief Executive Officer agrees. Hervey expects that the streamlined permitting process “to act as a catalyst to encourage more homeowners to take advantage of LIPA’s solar programs and save money, while at the same time helping to foster new jobs in the local solar market.”

Photo: Long Island Sunset by Benson Kua

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.