Sunday, October 28, 2012

Solar Future Gets A Boost

The future of solar energy in New York has brightened a bit, proponents said Friday as they announced legislation to extend or create tax incentives and other inducements to help homeowners, businesses and government agencies tap into the emerging technology.
Frank Murray, president of NYSERDA, talks about the
passage of new legislation aimed at improving the growth
of solar power in New York, Friday Aug. 17, 2012, at the Capitol
in Albany, N.Y. The bills, signed today by Governor
Andrew M. Cuomo, fall under the NY-Sun initiative which hopes
to make solar energy more affordable and to cultivate
new jobs within the state?s solar energy sector.

Robert Hallman, Gov. Andrew Cuomo's deputy secretary for energy and the environment, called the incentives "a major commitment" that should help quadruple the state's solar capacity by 2013.

Hallman and Frank Murray, president of the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority, joined solar industry representatives at a news conference in the Capitol's Blue Room.

They pointed to three bills signed by Cuomo that aim to lower the cost of going solar.

One measure provides homeowner tax credits worth up to $5,000 for purchasing or leasing solar equipment, provided they commit to using it for 10 years.

Another bill exempts commercial solar systems from state sales taxes, and allows municipalities to do the same.

The third measure extends through 2014 a property tax abatement for solar systems in New York City — which is considered an area of great potential due to the concentrated population and number of flat rooftops that make installing the needed equipment easier.

In total, the state is offering about $800 million worth of incentives through 2015 for this growing industry.

The inducements are needed, especially for residential uses, as solar still requires considerable up-front expenditures.

Responding to a question about the cost of solar energy compared to low-priced natural gas, Hallman said gas is a "bridge fuel" to the day when alternative sources like solar have evolved to the point where they can take over.

"That's the way we look at it," said Hallman.

Murray earlier said there is no "silver bullet" with solar power, but is instead something that will develop over time.

Murray said that equipping a home for solar electric power can run as high as $40,000.

But that price can fall to $16,000 after tax breaks, rebates and other incentives. The interest is there, he said, and his agency gets a steady stream of calls from people seeking to make use of the incentives.

Companies are also offering to lease solar equipment to homeowners long-term, which greatly reduces the cost and can lead to net savings on electricity.

Even schools are looking to the sun for savings as well as for some teachable moments. Schodack School Superintendent Robert Horan said the district used a NYSERDA grant — $208,000 — to put in three solar units, two on the roof and one on the ground, to help generate power for the 1,100-student district.

The installation didn't cost the district any money. Its leaders plan to use the system as a real-life tool for science lessons.

The idea, Murray said, is to ensure that New York captures the interest and business of an evolving and expanding solar industry.

"We want to make sure that we get more than our share of that investment in New York state," he said.


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