This is primarily due to government incentives that legislators (believe it or not!) have pushed through, driving renewable energy forward for the last 10 years. There are quite a few solar energy rebates, incentives, and tax credits available in New York state (in addition to the federal solar tax credit), and we’ll cover all of them here.
The average payback time for an average-sized solar array (5kW) is about 6 years.
NY electricity rates are about $0.16 / kWh. If you installed a 5kW system you’d save around $920 / year on your utility bill ($76/month).
New York has a great state rebate: 1 kilowatt (kW) of installed solar is eligible for a $1,750 rebate. The maximum is $12,500 (and you can only claim up to 40% of the total system’s cost). As an example, an average-sized 5 kilowatt system would get a rebate of $8,750 – not bad! One nice thing about solar rebates (vs tax credits) is that you can usually get the money back sooner. Tax credits required that you wait until you file taxes, but some solar installers will actually give you the money for the rebate up front. The best way to see if this is available in your area is to get a free solar estimate.
NY has a great state solar tax credit as well: 25% of the cost of the system, which you can claim using tax form IT-255. This credit is capped at $5,000, which means that with an average 5kW system you’ll cap it out.
Thanks to the aforementioned legislation in NY, solar panels are both sales tax free and exempt from property tax increases. The reason it might (without this exemption) is that with solar panels you’re adding significant utility bill savings to your property value. For an average-sized system this can be a considerable amount of money.
The state is gunning for a serious increase in renewable energy, mandating (through their renewable energy portfolio standards) that over 20% of the state’s energy come from renewable sources by 2020. About 10% of that must come from solar power. If these goals aren’t hit, the utility companies foot the bill, which means that you could see greater incentives coming from in the future (perhaps something like New Jersey’s SREC Market? see also: SRECs).
Net-metering means your utility pays you for extra power that you produce. Unfortunately, while NY does have a mandated net-metering policy, implementation is limited to a handful of utilities. We hope this changes in the future.
The best place to go is through a national group discount program or your local solar installer. You can find both of them here.
[photo via Flickr under Creative Commons License]