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Top Cities for Solar Energy in New York (2021)

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Solar panels and city skyline, NYC, USA
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Solar energy is most frequently associated with states smack in the middle of the Sun Belt. And yet, there are some notable outliers, with New York being foremost among them. According to data from the Solar Energy Industries Association, New York installed the eighth-most solar of any state in 2020. And in the first quarter of 2021, New York was ranked No. 10 in the nation for solar installations.

There are a number of reasons New York tends to be a top state for solar, not least of which is its excellent solar incentives. However, some cities in New York are more commendable in their solar investment than others. In this article, we'll rank the top 10 top cities for solar in New York.


Top 10 Cities for Solar in New York

EcoWatch narrowed down these cities based on solar power generation data compiled by the Energy Information Administration, annual solar irradiance and Solar For All maps from National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the most recent Shining Cities report from Environment America.

Based on this research, here are the top 10 cities for solar energy in New York:

  1. New York City
  2. Buffalo
  3. Brookhaven
  4. Huntington
  5. Hempstead
  6. Amherst
  7. Rochester
  8. Syracuse
  9. Yonkers
  10. Oyster Bay

EcoWatch

1. New York City

It's no surprise that magnificent New York City leads solar panel installation in the Empire State. According to Environment America, New York City is ranked No. 6 in the entire country for total installed solar PV capacity, coming in just behind Los Angeles, San Diego, Honolulu, Phoenix and San Antonio.

2. Buffalo

The Shining Cities report lists Buffalo as another of the nation's solar leaders, as it has over 30 watts installed solar PV per person. Overall, it ranks 40th in the U.S. for total installed solar wattage.

3. Brookhaven

A coastal suburb of New York City, Brookhaven gets a decent amount of exposure to the sun all year long, making it ideally positioned for solar investment. It is also home to the Long Island Solar Farm, one of the largest photovoltaic arrays on the East Coast.

4. Huntington

Huntington, on Long Island, gets plenty of natural light year-round, meaning it's a good place to commit to solar power. According to NREL maps, Huntington is located within the portion of the state that has the highest potential for solar power generation in the state of New York.

5. Hempstead

Southwest of Huntington, Hempstead is another high-sunlight city, and both residents and the local government have taken advantage of this with investments in clean, renewable energy. The city installed a number of solar-powered electric vehicle charging stations, as well as a solar- and wind-powered shellfish nursery to improve the area's clam beds.

6. Amherst

One of the most populous cities in the state, Amherst is full of solar adopters who have committed heavily to solar energy. The town is located in western New York and has made leaps toward embracing solar on public buildings. It currently has solar arrays that power a community center and a water pollution control facility, and it is now looking to install panels at other government buildings, police stations, libraries and more.

7. Rochester

Located on Lake Ontario, this old industrial town has one of the state's highest potentials for solar generation, according to NREL maps. It also has an above-average number of single-family homes that are already well-suited for solar PV installations.

8. Syracuse

Syracuse is one of the cloudiest cities in the U.S., but luckily, solar panels still work on cloudy days. The Upstate New York city is quickly becoming a hotspot for solar energy, with multiple companies proposing solar farms in Syracuse suburbs.

9. Yonkers

The city recently launched a partnership with nonprofits Sustainable Westchester and Groundwork Hudson Valley to launch five community solar projects throughout the city. This will give residents up to 10% off their electricity bills while also making strides toward a greener local energy supply.

10. Oyster Bay

Situated on the north shore of Long Island, Oyster Bay gets enough sun exposure to make it a great place for solar power. It's located next to Huntington, and NREL maps show it shares the city's high potential for solar power generation.

Where Solar Panels Work Best

What makes a community especially well-suited for solar power?

There are a couple of important factors to consider. One, of course, is exposure to sunlight throughout the course of the year. New York isn't quite as sun-soaked as, say, Arizona, Texas or Florida. With that said, there are a number of communities in New York that get decent solar exposure — enough to make solar energy viable.

Also, it doesn't have to be hot outside for solar panels to produce energy. In fact, solar panels, like most appliances, work most efficiently in cooler temperatures.

Another consideration is local electricity costs. In places where utilities are expensive, homeowners can realize big savings when they switch to solar. But when electricity is already pretty inexpensive, solar savings tend to be more modest.

Average New York Electricity Costs

So, how much does electrical power cost in the state of New York?

According to data from the EIA, New York's annual monthly consumption of electricity is 577 kWh, which is actually quite a bit less than in neighboring states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The average monthly cost of electricity is $103.60; again, this is less than in neighboring states, but only slightly.

New York Solar Tax Incentives

One of the reasons why New York is such a great state for solar is that there are so many financial incentives available. In fact, it's one of the top states for solar tax incentives in the U.S.

Start with the net metering program. The statewide net metering program allows homeowners to feed any surplus power their panels generate back into the electrical grid. This results in financial credits that can be used when they need to pull energy from the grid, such as to power their homes at night.

Additional tax incentives available to New York homeowners include:

  • NY-Sun Megawatt Block incentive: This New York State incentive allows homeowners to claim a dollars-per-watt ($/W) cash rebate for their systems.
  • Solar Energy System Equipment Credit: Residents can deduct up to $5,000 or 25% of total solar energy expenses (whichever is lower) from their taxes. This is available for homeowners who are leasing solar panels as well.
  • State sales tax exemption: Homeowners do not pay the state's 4% sales tax when they purchase solar equipment.

Federal Solar Tax Incentives

It's also important to note that all Americans can claim the federal solar tax credit, which is worth 26% of their total investment. This credit exists to make the cost of solar panels even more accessible to homeowners.

New York Solar Regulations

New York State has a number of laws on the books that pertain to solar energy, and for the most part, they all represent a significant commitment to clean, renewable power sources. One good example is the Accelerated Renewable Energy Growth Act, which calls for large-scale solar projects throughout the state. Another is the praiseworthy NY-Sun program, which offers incentives to communities that wish to develop shared solar resources and community solar programs.

And last but certainly not least, there's the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, which was signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in July 2019 and requires New York to obtain 70% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2030.

Final Thoughts: Top Cities for Solar in New York

The Empire State's commitment to renewable energy shines through its gracious financial incentives and many cities pivoting toward solar power.

If your city didn't earn a spot on our list of the top cities for solar in New York, there are a few things you can do to increase your area's solar profile. For example, you can urge your elected officials to adopt renewable energy goals, educate your neighbors on the benefits of solar and, of course, install a solar PV system on your own rooftop.

By doing these things, you can impact the future of clean energy in New York.

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