New York ramps up solar incentives

Solar energy will be more affordable for homes and businesses in New York after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a series of bills that extend tax credits, exempt sales taxes and offer tax abatements, state officials say.

“The bills signed (Aug. 17) continue to build momentum for the state’s NY-Sun Initiative by accelerating the installation of solar power while making it a more affordable option for residents and businesses,” Cuomo said. “Together with other NY-Sun incentives, these bills demonstrate the state’s commitment to reducing energy costs, growing our green energy sector, creating jobs, and protecting the environment.”

NY-Sun calls for the installation in 2012 of twice the customer-sited solar electricity capacity that was added during 2011, and quadruples that amount in 2013.

The new laws include statewide tax credits for the lease of solar equipment and power purchase agreements (A.34-B/S.149-B), statewide sales tax exemptions for commercial solar equipment (A.5522-B/S.3203-B) and an extension of the real property tax abatement in New York City for solar installations (A.10620/S.7711).

This new law provides statewide tax credits for homeowners who obtain solar equipment through a lease or a power purchase agreement, where the agreement spans at least ten years. The tax credit would be available for up to 14 years with a maximum of $5,000 for all years.

The law exempts the sale and installation of commercial solar energy systems equipment from sales taxes, and allows municipalities and cities to exclude these costs from local sales tax.

The law extends the property tax abatement available to solar energy generating systems in New York City through 2013 and 2014. This extension will help mitigate the cost of installing solar installations in the City.

Eligible solar electric generating system expenditures include reasonable expenditures for materials, labor costs properly allocable to on-site preparation, assembly and original installation, architectural and engineering services, and designs and plans directly related to the construction or installation of the solar electric generating system.

Carol E. Murphy, executive director of Alliance for Clean Energy New York (ACE NY), said, “We commend Governor Cuomo and our legislative leaders for their ongoing support of New York’s growing solar industry. The signing of these bills marks another important step forward in improving and expanding the opportunities for solar investment and will go a long way towards strengthening the state’s clean energy economy.”

New York has a goal of 45% renewable-powered electricity by 2015.

Also signed were legislation to create a temporary state commission on alternative energy cost savings for schools in New York State; and developing a renewable energy credit certification and tracking system by the New York state energy research and development authority.

According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, New York is home to about 7,500 solar photovoltaic (PV) solar installations and it ranks 6th in the nation in number of PV systems. These systems have the capacity to produce 121 MW – enough to power nearly 20,000 homes.