7 Steps to Solar Panels in New York

New York ranks 9th in the country for solar adoption, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), and for a good reason.1 The state receives well-above-average amounts of sunlight, which is ideal for solar production, and the above-average price of energy means solar saves residents an average of over $24,000 over the lifespan of their systems.2

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Converting to solar in New York is well worth the investment for most residents, as they help save a massive amount of money on the unusually high energy costs New Yorkers face.3

Although the average cost of solar panels in New York hovers around $19,175 before any solar rebates or perks, NY solar incentives help bring typical system prices down to around $13,423 — well below the national average. Combined with the high energy costs in the state, this makes solar massively valuable for most residents.

In the following sections, we’ll explain every step of the process of going solar in the Empire State. You can also use the links below to jump to a particular section.

Step 1: What to consider when Buying Solar Panels

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO)

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy

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Step 1: What to Consider When Buying Solar Panels in New York

While solar conversion is more affordable in New York than it is in most other states, a system will still cost over $10,000 and demand some research before you commit to adopting clean energy. In the sections below, we’ll discuss some of the most important factors we believe are worth considering before converting.

Research If Solar Panels Are a Good Fit For You in New York

Of course before you dive in and agree to spend thousands on your photovoltaic (PV) equipment, you’ll want to do some research to make sure solar adoption is a good investment for you.

We recommend first assessing how many solar panels you need to meet your energy needs. You can get an accurate estimate using our solar calculator, which uses satellite imaging to assess solar exposure on your specific property.

If your required system size is well above the local average of 6.5 kilowatts (kW), then you’ll know that solar will be less beneficial for your home overall.

You should also consider checking your local weather conditions, as solar panels don’t work as well in cloudy conditions. New York sees an average of 229 sunny days per year, which is well above the national average of 205.

However, NY is a large state, and large fluctuations can occur. If your city receives below 205 annual days of sunshine, solar viability will be lower. Still, most residents experience weather that’s conducive to saving with solar.

Perhaps most importantly, you should consider your options regarding net metering, also called net energy metering or NEM for short. Net metering is a policy that lets you overproduce with your panels and earn credits for the excess energy you export to the electric grid.

Net energy metering is mandated by the New York Public Service Commission (PSC), but the state is moving toward a distributed generation policy — similar to NEM but a bit less beneficial — called the Value of Distributed Energy Resources (VDER) program.

Under the VDER program, your credit rate will depend on your utility company. For example, PSEG uses a credit value below the retail rate per kilowatt-hour (kWh). The rate is based on your solar export and their “Alternative Rates.”4 The specific credit rate will vary from customer to customer.

National Grid and New York State Electric and Gas (NYSEG) also use a similar solar buyback program now that the net metering program is outdated.5,6

Since the credit rate will vary among utility companies and for specific individuals, we urge you to contact your power provider to discuss its VDER program and how you can expect to be credited for excess energy production.

The table below includes some solar statistics for New York residents, specifically, alongside similar stats for the U.S. as a whole. This should illustrate just how valuable solar conversion is in your area.

New York State Average United States National Average
Solar Power System Size Required 6.5 kW 9 kW
Typical Cost Per Watt to Install Photovoltaic (PV) Equipment $2.95 $2.66
Average Total System Cost Before Federal Solar Income Tax Credit $19,175 $23,940
Average Federal Solar Tax Credit Value $5,753 $7,182
Average Total System Cost After Federal Credit $13,423 $16,758
Average Panel Payback Period 10 years 12 years
Average Lifetime Savings of Converting to Solar $24,387 $22,379

We believe what’s most compelling is the fact that the time it takes for panels to pay for themselves is much shorter in your area than it is in most states, and the lifetime savings is also higher.

Research How to Finance Solar Panels

Once you confirm that solar adoption will be beneficial for your specific property, you can move forward in the process and decide how you’ll pay for your renewable energy system. The typical cost of solar PV panels in NY is around $19,175 before incentives, which is below the national average but still quite the investment.

First, you should estimate how many panels you’ll need to offset your energy consumption. You can use our solar calculator to get your estimated system size. Then, you can multiply that size (in watts or kW*1,000) by the typical cost per watt in the state, which is $2.95. That will give you a good idea of what your rooftop solar array will total.

Keep in mind that this is expensive, but one of the biggest upsides of solar conversion is what your panels will save you on energy bills over time. New York residents pay more than 1.5x the national average cost of electricity (per kWh), so your savings should far outweigh the upfront cost.

You’ll also have four payment options to consider based on your budget. We’ll include a quick explanation of each of the four solar financing options below:

  • Cash Purchase: You pay the entire cost of your system upfront. This yields the greatest long-term savings and the lowest total system price. You also get access to all solar incentives, including the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC).
  • Solar loan: You pay a small portion of your system cost as a down payment. The rest is paid in monthly installments, which include interest. The interest will push up your total cost of conversion and eat into your overall energy savings a bit. However, you still get access to the ITC, and the low down payment requirements make this option more accessible than cash purchases.
  • Solar lease: A solar lease is when you pay a monthly rental fee for the panels on your roof, but you get to use the energy they generate to offset your electricity consumption. Leases don’t let you take the federal tax credit, and they come with lower savings than cash purchases and loans. However, they’re very accessible and have less strict credit score requirements than loans.
  • Power Purchase Agreement (PPA): In a PPA arrangement, an installer places panels on your roof, and you agree to buy the energy they generate at a discounted cost. This option still saves you money but less than all other options. You also don’t get access to the federal credit, but there are no initial costs to get started.

There is also financing available through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), which provides low-interest loans with minimal down payments required to make solar more accessible throughout the state.

When deciding on a payment option, we encourage you to prioritize a short panel payback period. The shorter this term is, the greater your return on investment (ROI) will be overall and the more value you’ll see from your system.

Step 2: Getting a Quote from a Solar Provider

After you’ve worked out the financial side of things and know that solar will benefit you, you can start getting estimates from solar companies in your area. This part of the puzzle can be quite time-consuming, as you’ll need to do some research. We’ll explain what to look for in a New York solar installation company in the following sections.

Picking a Solar Installer

Choosing a solar provider to install your system might seem like an easy task, but it’s often the hardest part of the process. This is because the state is home to over 150 installers, according to the SEIA, and there are many things you should look for in a high-quality company.7 These include:

  • A good track record of installations, including positive customer reviews and few, if any, complaints filed with the Better Business Bureau (BBB).
  • At least five years of experience in the solar industry.
  • NABCEP-certified (North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners) installers on their installation teams.
  • Affordable pricing and payment options that suit your budget.
  • Warranties that are at least in line with the industry standard — we’ll discuss what this means in greater depth later on.

To make your decision a little easier, we’ll include a list of what we believe are some of the best solar providers in your area below. You can also check out our guide to choosing a solar installation company in NY for more information about these companies.

What to Expect After Requesting a Quote

Shortly after you provide your information to an installation company in your area, you should be contacted by a sales representative to schedule an in-person or virtual consultation. You’ll also be asked for a copy of a recent energy bill to assess your annual consumption.

During the consultation, you might need to provide some additional information about what appliances and systems — like heating and cooling equipment — use electricity. Your rep should discuss the process of converting with you a bit and include some estimated information for what your system should generate.

Once the design team comes up with a system design that meets your needs and fits on your roof, your sales rep should schedule another meeting to discuss your formal solar proposal. The proposal should include the following information:

  • The system size (in kW) required to offset your energy consumption and how many panels that includes.
  • The brand of panels that will be installed.
  • The price of your system before and after solar incentives.
  • The proposed location of the panels, inverters, batteries, wiring and any other add-on products.
  • How much electricity your panels will generate annually, and what that translates to in energy savings over time.
  • An estimate for how long it will take your panels to pay for themselves.
  • When your system is expected to be installed.
  • Fees charged for permits and building inspections, if necessary.
  • Information about your payment option and when payment will be due.
  • Information about your solar warranties.

We recommend taking some time during this step and getting at least two to three quotes for your solar installation. Every company’s pricing will be different, so having options lets you choose the best value for the money. Plus, some companies may offer to match competitor pricing, which can save you hundreds or even thousands in some cases if you have multiple quotes.

Consider Purchasing Solar Accessories

It’s at this stage of the process that we recommend you consider any solar add-ons you might want to be included in your installation. We’ll include some of the popular add-ons in New York below, along with a quick explanation of how they work and the value they provide.

  • Electric Vehicle (EV) chargers: A recent study showed that owning an EV in NY is more valuable than in just about every other state.8 Although adoption in New York City (NYC) is a bit slow, EVs are popular throughout the rest of the state, making EV chargers a common add-on in the area.
  • Solar batteries: Solar batteries are another increasingly popular option in the area, especially as the state moves away from its massively beneficial net metering program. With the VDER program, below-retail solar buyback rates will lead to fewer savings over time. Solar batteries can provide effective net metering, which can help maximize your long-term solar savings.
  • Energy efficiency upgrades: NY is considered one of the greenest states in the country, and with energy rates that are well above average, many homeowners seek out energy efficiency upgrades to make their homes more efficient and lower electric bills.9 Some installers in the state offer efficiency upgrades alongside solar conversion, and these are quite popular among residents.

Step 3: Signing a Solar Contract in New York

Solar panels on a field in a forestOnce you’ve chosen a solar proposal from a company you trust, you can move forward with signing a formal contract. You just need to make sure the contract terms are suitable and benefit you in the long run. We’ll discuss some things to consider in the contract below.

How Do Solar Warranties Work in New York?

Solar warranties are some of the first things we recommend you look at in your contract, as these will dictate what kind of service and coverage you have for years after the actual installation. There are three kinds of warranties to be aware of:

  • Equipment warranties: Equipment warranties typically last for around 25 years and cover manufacturer defects that could cause solar panel system malfunction and some severe issues, like electrical fires.
  • Efficiency warranties: Efficiency or production warranties usually last for between 20 and 25 years. They guarantee that your panels will maintain a specific efficiency rating — usually 80% to 90% of the initial efficiency — over the warranty term.
  • Labor warranties: The industry standard length of a labor warranty is ten years. These cover defects caused by improper installation technique. Some of the best labor warranties also cover roof leaks, although most don’t.

We recommend choosing an installer that provides all three coverages for total protection and peace of mind.

When Can I Expect Solar Service to Go Live?

On average, you can expect to wait between three and six months between the time you sign your solar contract and the time your panels are activated to provide energy to your home. The following factors can make that time frame a bit longer or shorter:

  • Permit timelines. Some permitting agencies in the state are slower than others and can delay installation by a few weeks if they are backed up.
  • Demand. The state ranks 9th in the country for solar adoption, so you can probably imagine that many of the contractors are backed up with orders for solar panel systems. If you choose a reputable installer, you might face delays because they are in even greater demand than other companies.
  • Product availability. Panels are usually pretty widely available, but some add-on products — Tesla Powerwalls, in particular — are in exceptionally high demand and routinely face supply issues. If you install add-on products like batteries, you could run into delays in getting those parts of your system delivered and installed.

Solar Panel Permits in New York

All of the municipalities in the state require building permits or electrical permits to be pulled prior to solar system installation. Permits often seem like an unnecessary part of the process, but they do help your local building department maintain dominion over construction projects and ensure they’re done according to the building code.

In most cases, your solar installation company will handle filing for permits and scheduling building inspections for you, so you won’t have to worry too much about this step. However, you will be on the hook for the cost of the permits, which varies based on your location.

For example, the Town of Hempstead on Long Island charges a flat rate of $100 for a solar system permit.10 The City of Buffalo charges a flat rate of $25, plus a $25 plan review fee, plus $5 for every $1,000 that the project costs.11 With average system prices around $19,000, that’s a total of $145.

Most permits will fall between $50 and $200 in the state. You should see the permit fees reflected in your solar estimate.

Solar & Utility Interconnection

EcoWatch Solar Quick TipInterconnection is the process by which your solar PV system is connected to the grid, which allows energy to pass back and forth between the grid and your solar array. Interconnection is required for net energy metering/VDER, and you’ll need interconnection to maintain power even when your panels aren’t producing enough energy.

All electric companies in the state require an interconnection application to be filled out and an inspection to be completed prior to connecting to the grid. Some providers also require an application fee. We’ll include application information for the larger power companies in the state below:

  • PSEG: Customers of PSEG will first need to sign a letter of authorization that allows the installer to file the application on their behalf.12 Your installer should then fill out the Standard Interconnection Application form and send it to the provider for approval.
  • National Grid: National Grid customers with a system size under 50 kW — virtually all residential solar customers — are granted preliminary approval to begin connection without an application.13 Your installer will later need to complete a formal application to maintain interconnection. You may also need a remote generation application if you’re taking advantage of community solar.
  • NYSEG: NYSEG customers can complete the interconnection application via the provider’s online portal.14 Your installer should do this for you, but you’ll need to sign the owner consent form.

The process of applying for interconnection can extend your installation timeline a bit, especially if your power company cannot complete the final inspection needed to enroll in net metering right away. However, it’s well worth the time it takes to enroll, as this gives you access to greater energy savings.

Step 4: What to Expect on Solar Panel Installation Day in New York

On the day your solar company schedules your installation, the team will arrive early, set up the equipment and tools and begin the installation on your roof.

Most solar customers wonder: “Do I need to be home for solar panel installation?” The answer is yes; you do need to be home when your PV panels are being installed. Your installers will need to access your home’s interior to complete the installation and connect to your electric meter. You should plan on being home all day.

On average, the entire installation should take between five and ten hours. Solar inspections take an additional half hour in most cases, so if your installer schedules the inspection with your power provider on the installation day, you may see slightly longer installation timelines.

Step 5: Final Inspection for Installed Solar Panels in New York

You’ll need a final inspection of your system completed by your local building department before you consider your solar project completed.

Open permits can cause issues when you go to sell your home, and they can also lead to violations in some cases. Final inspections serve to close out permits and confirm that your system is installed according to the local building code.

Your inspections usually don’t add anything to your installation costs. However, if you schedule to meet your inspector and then fail to show up, you might need to pay for a re-inspection. In some cases, though, your inspector can just complete a drive-by inspection instead of gaining access to your home.

After the inspection, you will be the only one monitoring your system and making sure there are no issues. Your installer might set you up with solar monitoring software in a mobile app, depending on which brand of panels you have installed. SunPower and Tesla, for example, both include solar monitoring apps.

Some installers also offer free solar monitoring or provide the service as an add-on in lieu of an app that you can monitor yourself.

Step 6: Permission to Operate (PTO) in New York

Finally, you’ll be granted PTO, which confirms that your system is up to code and is allowed to start generating power for your home. If your system hasn’t already been activated by your installer, they should show you the ON switch, which also functions as the emergency shut-off switch for your PV system.

This is a good time to ask about solar monitoring if you haven’t already. Your installer should be able to help you get the app and connect your system so that you can keep an eye on usage and production.

Finally, you should have emergency numbers on hand in case you run into problems with your system. For something like an electrical fire, you should call 911 first and then report the issue to your electric company. We’ll list the emergency numbers for some of the larger utility companies in the state below:

  • PSEG: 1-800-490-0075
  • National Grid: 1-800-642-4272
  • NYSEG: 1-800-572-1131

Step 7: Sit Back and Enjoy Your Solar Energy in New York

Finally, the hard work is done! At this point, you can sit back and watch as your solar energy system provides savings on your utility bills each month, eventually pays for itself and provides you with a robust ROI. Not to mention the fact that your panels are reducing your carbon footprint and making your home more energy-efficient overall.

Although most people see the greatest benefit from installing solar and then using the panels to save on electric bills, you’ll also see an upside if you sell your home. PV panels increase the value of your property by an average of 4.1%.15

FAQ: Solar Panels in New York

Below, we’ll answer some questions that we see most often from New Yorkers wanting to go solar.

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Article author
Dan Simms is an experienced writer with a passion for renewable energy. As a solar and EV advocate, much of his work has focused on the potential of solar power and deregulated energy, but he also writes on related topics, like real estate and economics. In his free time — when he's not checking his own home's solar production — he enjoys outdoor activities like hiking, mountain biking, skiing and rock climbing.
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Expert reviewer
Kristina Zagame is a journalist, editor and content writer with expertise in solar and other energy-related topics. Before joining EcoWatch, Kristina was a TV news reporter and producer, covering a wide variety of topics including West Coast wildfires and hurricane relief efforts. Kristina’s reporting has taken her all over the U.S., as well as to Puerto Rico and Chile.

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