2009-10-02 / Columnists

It's My Turn

The Rockaways - The Best Spot In the Northeast For Solar Power
By Don McNerney Solar Design Consultant

Don McNerney is a Solar Design Consultant for SuNation Solar Systems (formerly Sun Power Systems) in Oakdale, Long Island.

I am a solar energy consultant and, in my research, I made a remarkable discovery: The Rockaway Peninsula is the best place in the northeast to install solar electric systems. That's not because the sun is better in the Rockaways than it is elsewhere (although the sun is great here). It's because the financial incentives are so good. When you add up all the various rebates and tax breaks available for solar electric installations in the Rockaways they cover more than 90% of the cost.

Rockaway residents are entitled to all the solar incentives to which other Long Islanders are entitled—the LIPA solar rebate (which covers close to half the price of an installation up front), the New York State solar tax credit and the federal solar tax credit. In addition, as New York City residents, they are eligible for the New York City property tax abatement.

With all 4 incentives, more than 90% of the installation price is paid for, and the system pays for itself in 3-4 years. To my knowledge, this doesn't happen anywhere else in the northeast.

It is a benefit that flows only to residents of the Rockaways because they are, simultaneously, customers of LIPA and residents of New York City.

Not many people are aware of this situation. In fact, I didn't know about it myself until very recently when I analyzed a residential property on Rockaway Point.

Here's what I discovered.

The house I visited had a sunny, south-facing roof. That's good. We can't put solar panels on shady or northfacing roofs.

On the roof was approximately 400 square feet of space available for solar panels. Using the most efficient modules on the market we were able to fit a 5.52 KW system on the roof, generating about 2/3 of the home's power.

The system is expected to produce power for 30-40 years, and the modules are warranted for 25 years.

When we ran the numbers on this system here's what we discovered:
Total System Price: $40,000
LIPA Rebate: $19,320
Federal Tax Credit: $6,204
NY State Tax Credit: $5,000
NYC Property Tax Abatement: $7,238 (over 4 years)
Net Price After All Incentives: $2,238
A $40,000 solar PV system for $2,238! Remarkable.

$19,320 is covered up front by the LIPA rebate, and another $18,442 comes back to the homeowner in the form of tax credits and abatements.

All together, the incentives for this particular house cover 94% of the system price!

At a net price of $2,238 the system pays for itself in less than 4 years. And the homeowner is locking in a very low, fixed rate of $0.01/kWh for 2/3 of his electricity over the next 30 years. (Currently, the homeowner pays LIPA more than $0.20/kWh, a rate that is likely to rise substantially in the future.)

At these prices, solar power is really a no-brainer in the Rockaways. It's a great hedge against utility inflation and a great way to go green. For businesses as well as homes. The commercial incentives are similarly rich.

Unfortunately, situations this good don't last forever. The LIPA rebate is likely to go down soon, the New York City property tax abatement will go down at the end of 2010, and the future of the New York State solar tax credit is uncertain.

But right now conditions couldn't be better for solar electricity in the Rockaways. The stars are aligned to generate your own clean power very cheaply. For more information contact Don McNerney, Solar Design Consultant, SUNation Solar Systems, www.sunationsolarsystems. com, donmcnerney@gmail.com, 917-679-8900.

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