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As the NYC solar market continues to grow and evolve, Sustainable CUNY’s Solar Ombudsmen are charged with facilitating and supporting its development. NYC Solar Ombudsmen have worked with partners at the NYC Department of Buildings, the Fire Department of NY and other City agencies to prepare a collection of response to some of the most frequently asked questions they receive from solar installers in the City. If you have additional questions, please contact a solar ombudsman at nysolar@cuny.edu.

Note: The information provided here reflects general agency practices and preferences as of the date of publication and may change over time.

  1. What constitutes as an “obstruction” in the Fire Code?

    • FC504.4 Rooftop Access and Obstructions: “obstruction” shall mean any fixture or other item that is not readily movable by one person without the use of tools or equipment.

    • Obstructions are regardless of height; this also includes obstructions less than 12 inches in height (i.e. exhaust fans, vents or pipes).

    • Conduit and Piping (FC504.4.7)

      • Existing or new conduits or piping that exceed 1 foot in height above the roof surface or more than 24 inches in width

    • Must have a step, ramp, or platform with a railing and made of noncombustible material designed to be readily traversed.

    • Existing and new conduits and piping 1 foot and under in height and 24 inches or less in width may exist in the clear path requirements.

    • The vent pipe obstruction, no matter how high/low, is NOT permitted per 504.4.4.

    • Note: With reference to FC504.4.4 andFC 504.4.7, the pipe/piping is for enclosed piping such as gas piping or oil piping as indicated in the color coding requirement, it does not apply to plumbing/kitchen piping. For more information on this difference, see the NYC Fire Code Guide (Chapter 4, Question 37, page 31.)

  2. How does FDNY define a clear path?

    • The definition of a clear path is a path that is completely clear of obstructions. Existing skylights, hatches, antennas, etc. are not allowed in the path.

    • As required by FC 504.4.3, the clear path must be accessible from each rooftop perimeter access landing.

    • For roofs 100 feet or less in height

      • With a slope of 9.5 degrees and under, the clear path must be 6’ wide x 9’ high from the front of the building to the rear, and from side to side.

      • With a slope exceeding 9.5 degrees, existing obstructions like pipes, chimneys, and vents may remain in the 3’ clear path from the ridge. This is because FC 512.3specifically says solar panels must provide a 3’ wide access area along the path while FC 504refers to all rooftop obstructions.

      • Note: The Fire Code Prior to March, 2016, the pitched roof threshold was 20 degrees. Sustainable CUNY worked with the Fire Department to provide greater flexibility on clear path requirements for certain one- and two-family homes. These changes may be found in the new NYC Fire Code Guide (see Chapter 5, questions 35-37, pages 30-32).

    • Note: FC 504.4.2 requires reasonable access to rooftop doors, fire escapes, access ladders and other building features, including a 3-foot clearance around three sides of any skylight or scuttle. This access and clearance may be provided using the six-foot-wide clear path if the building feature is located adjacent to the rooftop clear path but does not obstruct the clear path. In other words, the clear path and 3-foot clearance can overlap. For more information, see the NYC Fire Code Guide (See Chapter 5, Question 36, page 31).

  3. What are the general requirements for sloped roofs?

    • For sloped roofs (i.e. slopes greater than 20 degrees), solar panels must be installed 3’-0” from the ridge line.

      • Note interim guidelines for one and two family dwellings that now define sloped roof as 9.5 degrees or greater.

    • Within this 3’-0” distance, an existing chimney, vent, etc. may remain.

    • IF a rooftop with a roof slope greater than 20 degrees has the following:

      • Solar panels installed 3’ from all ridgelines and there are existing chimneys, vents or exhaust fans within 3’ of the ridge line,

      • THEN NO Fire Department VARIANCE IS REQUIRED.

  4. I understand that the FDNY just recently released interim guidelines stating its interpretation of FC504 and FC512 for one or two-family homes. What should I know?

    • A one or two-family home with a shallow-pitched roof (a roof slope of not less than 2/12, or 9.5 degrees) shall comply with FC512.3, not FC504.4.

    • A one or two family dwelling that is primarily a flat-roof building shall comply with FC504.4, even if a portion of the roof is shallow-pitched or has a pitch exceeding 20 degrees.

      • For example, a brownstone-type building shall comply with FC504.4, not FC512.3, notwithstanding it having a pitched roof element or a penthouse or bulkhead with a pitched roof.

    • A shallow-pitched or pitched portion of the building rooftop must be kept free of obstructions if it can be traversed to gain access onto, or across, the otherwise flat roof. Owners may request guidance from the Bureau of Fire Prevention as to the appropriate treatment of shallow-pitched or pitched portions of flat-roofed buildings.

    • Note: These interim guidelines shall not apply to shallow-pitched roofs on buildings other than one or two family dwellings (Occupancy Group R-3).

  5. What are the most relevant fire code provisions for solar?

    • FC 504 on rooftop access and obstructions

    • FC512 on rooftop solar panel installations

    • Note the Fire Department’s Code Guide, which provides official interpretations and guidance.

    • See FDNY’s presentation from Sustainable CUNY’s solar industry workshop for visuals of their key requirements

  6. Are there restrictions I should be aware of when installing rooftop solar projects?

    • Generally speaking, the most relevant sections to be aware of are FC 504 (building and rooftop access) and 512 (rooftop solar panel installations).

    • Yes. There are rooftop access, obstruction and setback requirements, among others, to ensure that nothing prevents firefighters from carrying out their duties. Installations must provide landing zones and clear paths as required by the Fire Code.

    • Existing or new conduits or piping that exceed 1 foot in height above the roof surface or more than 24 inches in width

      • Must have a step, ramp, or platform with a railing and made of noncombustible material designed to be readily traversed.

    • Existing and new conduits and piping 1 foot and under in height and 24 inches or less in width may exist in the clear path requirements.

    • The vent pipe obstruction, no matter how high/low, is NOT permitted per 504.4.4.

    • Note: With reference to FC504.4.4 and FC 504.4.7, the pipe/piping is for enclosed piping such as gas piping or oil piping as indicated in the color coding requirement, it does not apply to plumbing/kitchen piping. For more information on this difference, see the NYC Fire Code Guide (Chapter 4, Question 37, page 31.)

7. If there are existing conditions on a roof that make it impossible or extremely difficult to comply with FDNY’s requirements, is there any way around them?

  • Yes. A variance can be requested from FDNY with the TM-5 Application.
  • Note: Guidelines for the submission of the TM5 Application are provided in Technology Management Bulletin #2/2011 (Rev. 4/2016).
  • Note also: As of July 2016, the FDNY will make allowance for solar installations to encroach on the clear path on small, flat-roofed buildings (e.g. brownstones) in which there are certain permanent building features on to encroach on the clear path. As such, you do not need to obtain a fire code variance in order to be approved by DOB. For the details of the specific circumstances, see the NYC Fire Code Guide,Chapter 5, page 32. 

8. If I need a variance from FDNY for rooftop access, should I file the required TM-5 Application with FDNY before or after submitting my DOB construction permit application?

  • You may, but you do not need to file a permit application with DOB prior to filing your application for a rooftop access variance(the TM-5 Application) with the Fire Department.
  • Whatever you choose to do, you must let FDNY know about the DOB job filing status in Section 7 of the TM-5 application form.
  • For resubmission, no fee is required when resubmitted within 6 months of the date of the objection letter. To properly resubmit, fill out the TM-5, check the resubmission box and supply the FDNY FPIMS # given in objection letter, along with the objection letter itself, and 3 copies of 11”x17” sized signed and sealed plans.

9. How does the Fire Code get revised?

  • There is periodic review and revision of the Fire Code. Specifically, the New York City Administrative §29-104, , enacted as part of Local Law No. 26, requires the Fire Department to review new editions of the International Fire Code (IFC) and propose amendments to the City Council every three years.
  • Currently, NYC follows the 2014 Fire Code. The next revision would be expected to take effect in 2017, although the stakeholder process would begin earlier. 
  • Note: It is also possible to submit public inquiries on an on-going basis here. Additionally, Sustainable CUNY works with the Fire Department on an on-going basis aiming to provide clarifications to codes relevant to solar. For example, CUNY worked with the Fire Department to establish the 2014 Fire Code grace period for in-progress solar projects outlined in FDNY’s NYC Fire Code Guide (last updated in July, 2016). FC Chapter 5-Fire Operation Features # 36, page 31).
  1. How do I know if a property falls within a flood zone?

    1. Use DOB’s Building Information System (BIS) to look up the property profile.

    2. The BIS “Property Profile Overview” will inform you whether the property is located in an area that may be affected by a Special Flood Hazard Area. (It will also determine if the property is located in an area affected by tidal wetlands, freshwater wetlands, or coastal erosion hazard area.)

  2. What do I need to do if BIS indicates that the property is in a special flood hazard area?

    1. DOB requires additional documentation if the property where you want to install solar is in a special flood hazard area.

      1. Permit application must include the base flood elevation (BFE), determined by reviewing both FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Map (FIRM) as well as its Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (PFIRM). The application must use the more restrictive map.

      2. Permit application must also include the Design Flood Elevation (DFE), determined in Appendix G, Table 7-1.

      3. Indicate ‘Flood Zone Compliance’ in Section 3 “Special Inspection categories” on page three of the TR1 Form.

  3. What is the cut off for properties to be considered in a special flood hazard area?

    1. Special Flood Hazard Areas are those that have a 1% or greater chance of flooding in any given year. The percentage is determined by FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps.

    2. Note: On the maps, this would be noted either as a ‘shaded blue’ or ‘shaded red’ area.

  4. Can you provide a succinct summary of the steps I should take if a property is in a flood hazard zone?

    1. First, go to BIS to confirm whether a property is in a flood hazard zone.

    2. Second, do a quick look up on FEMA’s “What’s My BFE” tool.

      1. This tool gives the current (2013) flood hazard information as well as the flood hazard information from 2007.

    3. Third, go to the FEMA website to get both a FIRM (Flood Insurance Rate Map) and PFIRM (Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map) maps for your property.

      1. First look at the 2007 FEMA FIRM to see if there is a flood hazard risk.

        1. The elevations will be given in “NGVD29” format.

        2. The DOB now requires elevations in “NAVD88” format.

        3. Therefore, you will need to convert the 2007 NGVD29 to NAVD88 elevations.

        4. Local Law 96 of 2013 requires that you indicate elevations above sea level based upon using NAVD as a primary datum. See DOB’s guide “Rebuilding NYC after Hurricane Sandy: A Guide for New Code and Zoning Standards for Industry Professionals.”

        5. Note: FEMA now uses the NAVD88 format for the updated maps because it is both more accurate than NGVD29 and it is more compatible with modern technologies.

      2. Then, compare the information from the 2007 FEMA FIRM with the 2013 PFIRM maps.

    4. Fourth, if there are discrepancies between the different flood zone maps, then you must use the most stringent version.

      1. Note: The 2013 PFRIM maps will most likely be more stringent than the 2007 FIRM, though not always.

      2. Note also: FEMA revised its maps once again in 2015. There are only a few done, but be aware that there may be another map out there that could be relevant.

    5. Fifth, you must use FEMA’s interactive map tocreate both the 2007 and 2013 “firmettes.”

      1. You must provide both to the DOB.

      2. Note: “Firmettes” are full-scale sections of a FIRM that one can create, save and print from most printers. They are generally 8 ½ x 11 inches in size.

  5. What maps should I rely on for assessing a flood hazard, and thus include in my solar application?

    1. You must rely on both the Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMS) as well as the Preliminary Flood Insurance Rate Map (PFIRM). Application must use the more restrictive map.

  6. Where can I find out how to convert the old NGVD29 elevation to the new elevation of NAVD88?

    1. FEMA has developed a Datum ConversionTable for NYC.

    2. Also, the National Geodetic Survey has developed a tool,VERTCON, to convert between NGVD29 and NAVD88. Note: This tool was developed for “advanced users.”

  7. How do I determine the Base Flood Elevation (BFE) for my property?

    1. FEMA’s Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) depict the BFE. FIRMs can be found through FEMA’s Map Service Center. You may also use FEMA’s BFE Address Lookup Tool to compare the “current effective” and “revised” FEMA flood hazard data for your property.

    2. Note: The BFE offers the basis for floodplain management and flood insurance regulations.

  8. How do I determine the Design Flood Elevation (DFE)?

    1. Refer to the 2014 Building Code G201.2 for the definition of the Design Flood Elevation (DFE) as well as the tables where the applicable elevations according to the structural occupancy category may be found.

      1. For more detail, see FEMA’s Guide for Obtaining and Developing BFE.

    2. Note: The DFE is the higher elevation standard involving an incremental elevation above the BFE to which a building must be flood-protected. (NYS adopted a higher elevation standard than the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) required in 2010.)

  9. If a property is considered to be in an area of minimal flood hazard according to FEMA’s National Flood Hazard Map, but there is still a very slight chance of a flood hazard (e.g. 0.2 percent), then do I still have to submit flood zone data to DOB?

    1. Check DOB’s BIS website to determine whether DOB considers the property is in a Special Flood Hazard Area. If it does, then you will need to submit flood zone data to DOB.

  10. If a small section (e.g. one quarter) of a property is located in a flood zone, then is the property still considered to be in a flood hazard zone?

    1. Most likely yes, but always check DOB’s BIS website for the determination of whether the property is considered to be in a Special Flood Hazard Area.

      1. If the property is in a Special Flood Hazard Area, then you must next look to the maps to determine if the building upon which you plan on installing solar crosses the flood hazard line. (See questions 2 & 4 above.)

    2. If the building on which you will install the solar system lies within the property that is in the flood hazard but outside of the actual flood hazard zone line, then compliance with Appendix G is not required.

    3. However, if a portion of the building crosses the flood hazard zone line, then the entire installation must comply with Appendix G.

  11. In addition to the general rules and regulations, what are the requirements I must comply with when installing solar on properties in flood zones in NYC?

    1. NYC Building Code Appendix G

    2. Rules of the City of NY (RCNY) 3606-01

    3. August 2015 Memo on a solar exception to the special flood hazard.

      1. Note: You must be a member of the NYC Round Table to access this information. To join, contact nysolarsmart@gmail.com)

    4. New York City’s Electric Code (NY EC) Articles 100, 240.24(A), 404.8(A), 690

  12. If a property is in a special flood hazard zone, where does DOB require solar equipment to be installed?

    1. All solar equipment must be installed above the DFE with the following exceptions:

      1. The AC Disconnect Switch; and

      2. The utility company’s utility meter. The utility company has discretion on where to place its meter.

    2. As per NY EC, some equipment needs to be “accessible” and other equipment needs to be “readily accessible.” Specifically:

      1. The inverter

        1. Must be “accessible” and must be above the DFE.

        2. Note: Micro-inverters may be used, and will thus likely be on the roof. However, you must be sure to specify that you are using micro-inverters in your application.

      2. Meter

        1. Must be “accessible” and must be above the DFE.

        2. Note: Utility company meters (e.g. Con Edison’s meters) can be below the DFE.

      3. AC disconnect switch

        1. Must be “readily accessible.”

        2. Note: While the AC disconnect switch must be readily accessible, it can also be below the DFE.

      4. Circuit breakers and fuses

        1. If circuit breakers and/or fuses are the main, primary protection devices, then they must be “readily accessible” (NY EC 240.24)

        2. If circuit breakers and/or fuses are installed as an additional protection in the circuit, then they are considered “supplementary overcurrent protection devices,” and they can be “accessible.” (NY EC 240.24)

  13. What does “readily accessible” mean in terms of where I can place solar equipment in flood hazard zones?

    1. According to the NY EC Articles 100 and 240.24 “readily accessible” means that devices must be:

      1. “Capable of being reached quickly for operation, renewal, or inspections without requiring those to whom access is requisite to actions such as to use tools, to climb over or remove obstacles, or to resort to portable ladders, and so forth.” (NY EC Article 100)

      2. Therefore, overcurrent devices “shall be installed so that the center of the grip of the operating handle of the switch or circuit breaker, when in its highest position, is not more than 2.0 m (6 ft 7 in.) above the floor or working platform, unless one of the following applies.” (NY EC Article 240.24)

  14. What is considered an overcurrent protection device (OCPD)?

    1. In general, AC or DC circuit breakers and fuses are overcurrent protection devices.

    2. For more information about OCPDs, see NY EC Articles 100 and 240.

    3. Note: Overcurrent devices must generally be readily accessible (NY EC 240.24).

    4. Note also: A “supplementary overcurrent protection device” provides limited overcurrent protection for specific applications and utilization equipment.

      1. Supplementary OCPDs do not have to be readily accessible (NY EC 240.24(A)(2).

  15. What does “accessible” mean in terms of where I can place solar equipment in flood hazard zones?

    1. According to NY EC Article 100: “Admitting close approach; not guarded by locked doors, elevation, or other effective means.”

    2. Examples of solar equipment that need to be accessible include inverters and production meters.

  16. Land surveys are very costly. Is there an alternative to show flood compliance?

    1. Applicants have three options to show flood zone compliance:

      1. Provide DOB a current site survey or elevation certificate stamped by a NYS Licensed Surveyor. Applicants must also show that all new equipment the solar company installs other than the AC disconnect switch must be above the DFE.

      2. If applicant does not want to use a licensed surveyor or if there is an old survey or certificate, then you must convert the elevation to NAVD88, and a note any changes between the documents on the AI1 Form.

      3. If all equipment is on the roof, then applicant must include a utility certification statement on the plans stating that all equipment but the AC disconnect and conduit connecting it is above the DFE in accordance with NYC BC Appendix G.

  17. If I am using micro-inverters, then what do I need to know?

    1. If you are using micro-inverters, then the PV panels are on the roof. If all other equipment is also on the roof (e.g. the solar company’s meter), then there is no need for a site survey. You will simply need a utility certificate stating that all equipment but the AC disconnect and conduit connecting it is above the DFE in accordance with NYC Building Code Appendix G.

  18. Is there a chance that the NYC Department of Building’s flood hazard zone requirements conflict with the National Electric Code?

    1. In cases where there is a potential conflict, such as if what is considered readily accessible, then you must find innovative solutions to comply with all codes and standards.

  19. If a property is not in a flood hazard area, then do I need to prove this using maps or some other statement in my solar application?

    1. No. If the main Property Profile page on BIS does not specifically state that the property is within a Special Flood Hazard Zone, then flood maps are not necessary. However, please note that you may still be in a Tidal Wetland Zone, Freshwater Wetland Zone, or a Coastal Erosion Hazard Zone. Maps may be required for these and you can find links on the DOB Website.

  20. If I am installing solar in a flood hazard area, will it require a special inspection?

    1. Yes. Special inspections are required to ensure flood zone compliance. A registered design professional must certify compliance with Appendix G of the NYC Building Code and ASCE 24. See BCG 105.2.

    2. Note: On the TR1 Form, fill in section 3 for Flood Zone Compliance.

  21. I understand that if I am installing solar in a flood hazard zone, then I need to assess whether adding solar would be considered a substantial improvement. What is considered a “substantial improvement” and how can I be sure that I comply with the Building Code?

    1. Work shall be considered a “substantial improvement” when the construction costs exceed 50% of the market value of the structure. Alternatively, where construction costs exceed the greater of $40,000 or 25% of the market value of the structure, the applicant shall provide a substantial improvement calculation and documentation per 1-RCNY 3606-01.

    2. Note: The substantial improvement calculation that is required on the plans has recently changed from 50% to 25% in RCNY 3606-01. This means that fewer jobs will have to show the calculation on the plans and documentation from the Department of Finance.

  1. Who performs the special inspections for solar jobs?

    1. Special inspections are completed by third party special inspectors of registered Special Inspection Agencies. Third parties do not represent the contractor or the DOB.

    2. Even if you decide to file professional certification without the PTA, special inspections are required. The TR1 references building code sections on the form.

    3. Building Code Chapter 17 – Structural Tests and Special Inspections

 

  1. Is a Special Inspection Agency number required, if applying for a permit for a solar installation using a registered architect?

    1. Yes. A special inspection (SIA #) would still be required, even if an RA is involved

  1. Where can I find the forms and process for interconnecting with Con Edison?

    1. Con Ed has the forms and process on their website.

    2. In addition, look to CUNY’s Resources page.

  2. What is the timeframe for installing net meters for solar projects?

    1. The new meter must be installed 10 business days after the net metering application is approved.

    2. As per industry best practice and the NYS Standardized Interconnection Requirements (NY-SIR) requirements, you must submit the net metering application before the installation begins.

      1. Once Con Ed approves the net metering application, they install the net meter.

      2. The timing of the new meter can depend on backlog and availability of meters. If you have specific projects that are waiting for too long on net meters, you can contact Alison and Jim to help you out: klinga@coned.com and skillmanj@coned.com.

  1. What are NYSERDA’s requirements for its NY-Sun Solar Electric Incentive Program (PON 2112)?

    1. NYSERDA’s PON 2112 requirements are described in its Program Manuals. There is one Program Manual for Residential/Small Commercial systems, and another for Commercial/Industrial systems.

      1. There is incentive cap based on the PV system size. Residential systems must be 25kW or less, and non-residential sites must be 200 kW or less.

      2. Incentives are capped based on a PV system size that does not exceed 110% of the total kWh consumption. For more details, see the NY-Sun Program Opportunity Notice (PON) 2112.

    2. Under the NY-Sun Incentive Residential/Small Commercial program, system incentives applied to 25kW or lower per site/meter for residential systems, and 200 kW or lower per site/meter for non-residential systems; OR The PV System kW size that is expected to produce energy equal to no more than 110% of the total kWh consumption for the previous 12 months of electric usage through the associated meter. New Construction systems must be sized not to exceed 110% of the calculated yearly projected kWh of electric usage.

    3. Check with NYSERDA to see if the new construction calculator can be used in this situation. Contact Luke Forster for questions luke.forster@nyserda.ny.gov

    4. For all current NYSERDA funding opportunities and requests for proposals, see here.

  2. EASEMENT FILING: What is required when filing for an easement in conjunction with a professionally certified application?

    1. The POC3 form is required.

    2. If the application is being filed professionally, it is filed with Hub Self Service. They will be able to advise how to fill out their required forms. Please contact them at HubSelfService@buildings.nyc.gov.

    3. Note: If you are the solar installer or contractor filing through Hub Full-Service, then the POC3 form is not required.

    4. The Department of Buildings has a few example easements.

  1. What is required for DOB’s Electrical Application Process?

    1. First, see CUNY’s Solar Permitting Guide, which provides detail on each step of the electrical process. Specifically see Steps 7, 13-15.

    2. An Electrical Permit is required before beginning a solar installation.

      1. The electrical permit is filed separately from the construction permit.

      2. The applicant must file an Electrical Permit Application (ED16A).

        1. Only NYC-licensed electricians may sign and seal the form, which DOB’s Electrical Unit will review.

        2. The form can be mailed, delivered in person, or filed online through the Development Hub’s E-Filing system. Here is DOB’s guideto e-filing. See section 5.

    3. Note: The Electrical Advisory Board (EAB) must review electrical applications that are 1,000 KVA and above. Submissions are reviewed at the EAB’s monthly meeting.

  2. Who should stamp the electrical application pages?

    1. All pages of the Plan Set must be stamped by the Professional Engineer/Registered Architect (Applicant of Record), except for the electrical diagram. (The PE/RA is not liable for the electrical diagram.)

      1. Note: As of July, 2016, the three-line diagram is no longer required as part of the construction application or the electrical permit.

  3. Can you provide a quick overview of the electrical process for solar jobs?

    1. A NYC Master Electrician creates application online in the Hub. The application is an online version of the ED16A.

    2. Filing Fees are paid electronically through the e-filing system using a credit card. See DOB’s E-Filing guide.

    3. The work permit is issued immediately. (The plan review does not take place until the inspection.)

    4. The solar project is installed.

    5. Electrical Inspection is scheduled. Electrical inspections are required to use Inspection Ready, DOB’s online scheduling program.

    6. Bring the approved set of plans from the construction permit on site along with equipment manufacturer's specification sheets. The electrical inspector reviews the electrical diagram and electrical work on-site during the inspection.

  4. In the Electrical Application process, where should the electrical diagram be placed?

    1. As of July, 2016, the three-line diagram is no longer required as part of the construction application or the electrical permit.

  5. Where can a customer check the electrical permit status?

    1. Use the Buildings Information System (BIS) to check the status of an electrical permit. Anyone can use BIS to check the status of an application or review any comments from an inspection failure.

  6. INSPECTION READY: Who can register for Inspection Ready?

    1. Anyone may register; and, Licensees, Registered Architects, and Professional Engineers MUST register in order to take action in the system and request inspections. Send an email to Inspection Ready at IReady@buildings.nyc.gov for further clarification.

  1. What are the required documents for solar energy installations?

    1. Note: The solar installer or contractor will generally handle the paperwork involved in the solar application.

    2. See Sustainable CUNY’s NYC Solar PV Standardized Checklist of Filing Materials.

  2. Where can I file my solar application?

    1. You may file your solar application:

      1. Separately through the appropriate borough office; or

      2. Online through the HUB as an “Alteration Type-2.”

      3. All solar electric (photovoltaic or PV) projects must file for an ED16A Form: Electrical Permit Application, which may be filed online, in person by a licensed NYC Master Electrician, or by mail.

  3. For customers who are eligible for and wish to receive Property Tax Abatement (PTA4), what is the proper permit form to file?

    1. All PV projects pursuing a solar Property Tax Abatement (PTA4) must be filed online through The HUB using Professional Certification of Objections and Directive 14.

4. How do I file an application for a solar system on a property with multiple tenants (e.g. Community Solar projects on coops/condos)?

1. Note: This process only applies to a single solar system proposed for a building structure comprised of multiple building identification numbers (BINs).

2. First verify the entire building structure is owned by a single entity and within a single borough, block and lot (BBL) using ZoLa, or your tool of choice.

3. Enter the BBL into the building department’s building information system (BIS) to find all associated BINs and their addresses (note: for large community developments, there may be multiple individual building structures within one BBL – make sure to identify all BINs for the individual structure for which the proposed solar system is to be installed).

4. When preparing the initial application, the information found in the previous step will need to be input into the PW1 form in the following manner:

1. [PW1 form, Section 1 – Location Information] The overall project location for the application will be the address/ BIN where the meter for interconnection is located.

2. [PW1 form, Section 11 – Job Description] Use the following language to indicate the solar system will be over multiple BINs:

See Section “24. Comments” for full scope of addresses covered under this Application

3. [PW1 form, Secetion 24 – Comments] List all additional BINs within the structure in the following format:

Comments for Doc. 1 – The scope of this solar application, job No. 123456789, applies to multiple attached buildings listed below and represented by single owner:

123 Broadway, Manhattan – BIN 12345

124 Broadway, Manhattan - BIN 23451

125 Broadway, Manhattan - BIN 34512

………etc.

5. ACP5 asbestos forms must also list all relevant BINs. The main address and BIN will be the same as the rest of the application (where interconnection will take place), and all additional BINs can be listed in the open section on the back of the form. It’s recommended the same listing and formatting of BINs utilized for the PW1 form be copied onto the ACP5 form to ensure consistency and accuracy.

 

6. Proceed with the rest of the application as normal.

 

Note: Solar hot water projects currently do not qualify for the Property Tax Abatement (PTA).

  1. How do I fill out the cost sections of the PW3 and PTA4?

    1. *There has been recent changes in PW3 and PTA4

      1. The PW3 total job cost must match section 10C construction costs on the PTA4. Previously, it was total expenditures (10d). Please read the PW3 Cost Affidavit as to what should be included in the construction cost. That total should match the ‘total construction cost’ on PTA4 form section 10C [and the ‘total construction costs (from 10C) in section 10D.]

  2. What costs are included in the PW3: Cost Affidavit form?

    1. The PW3: Cost Affidavit form includes the total job costs, which consists of direct work costs based upon material and labor. Work shall include all construction elements such as construction equipment. Indirect costs include general conditions and insurance. They must be added to direct work costs and be reflected in the unit costs.

  3. How do I fill out the PTA4’s cost?

    1. Fill out the PTA4 as it pertains to the PW3 form. The amount in 10c on the PW3 form should be the same as 10D- total construction costs from the PTA4 form.

  4. How does one state that the solar installation is compliant to zoning regulation?

    1. Depending on your district, statement of complying with ZR 23-62(m) [scroll down to (m), page 88] must be on elevation plans.

      1. ‘Solar Panel Installation is compliant with ZR 23-62(m)’

        1. Then you may need to break it down into one of the ‘subcategories’ of ZR 23-62(m) (i.e. Solar Panel Installation is compliant with ZR 23-62(m)(1), etc.).

  1. Since the beginning of 2016 I have been having trouble finding the correct DOB forms. What should I do?

    1. As of early 2016, the DOB launched a new webpage and has not yet transitioned all of the old material/old links to new ones. Here is the new link to DOB forms. Alternatively, you may use CUNY’s resources to help guide you to the correct links.

  2. After submitting installation plans, is it possible to revise them? If so, how does the revision application process work?

    1. Yes. To revise plans that are pending review from the plan examiner, the solar representative or contractor responsible for filing the paperwork on behalf of the property owner may email greenroofandsolar@buildings.nyc.gov and request the job to be opened up. After revised plans or forms are re-submitted, the job will be moved to the back of the plan examiner’s queue.

  3. How are the relevant DOB codes and permitting processes created? Are they regularly updated?

    1. NYC’s Construction Codes are updated every three years by a number of code committees that the DOB organizes, based on the latest version of the International Code Council I-Codes. The code committees are comprised of subject matter experts and include representation from the construction industry. They review both technical and administrative code provisions. The NYC Council must approve any revisions to the Construction Codes, and the Mayor must sign them into law. Here is more information about DOB’s code development. Here is more information related to code interpretation.

    2. Note: NYC uses 311 to log complaints on any issues related to the City. If you have a concern, you may want to reach out to the City using this forum. You may also reach out to a Solar Ombudsman at nysolar@cuny.edu.

  1. How is the solar PTA distributed in a condo?

    1. The PTA willbe apportioned among all of the condominium tax lotswithin the eligible building. Usually, the PTA amount would be split between each condo unit based on the common interest each condo owner owns in the building. This percentage is in the Declaration when the individual purchases the condo unit. Larger units would have a larger percentage and would receive a larger PTA than smaller units.

    2. For more detailed information, please consult CUNY’s NYC Solar Energy Generating System Property Tax Abatement.

  2. How is the solar PTA allocated on a yearly basis?

    1. The solar PTA is 5% of the total out of pocket amount (including tax), for four years. The 5% is allocated based on each condo owner’s share of the common elements. For example, if the total solar project costs $120,000, and the condo receives $20,000 to support the project, and the condo pays $100,000 out of pocket, then the condo is eligible for a $5,000 abatement per year for four years. Those with a larger percentage of a condo’s shares would receive more of the PTA amount.

  3. Do all of the condominium owners qualify for the Property Tax Abatement?

    1. All owners in the building who have a condo lot number with the Department of Finance (DOF) should qualify. You can check the city’s Zola map and see where there are individual units.

  1. What is the Solar Property Tax Abatement (PTA)?

    1. The solar property tax abatement (PTA) is a subsidy that reduces the taxes a property owner pays through a line item reduction in his/her property taxes. Specifically, the New York PTA for solar energy systems applies to property owners in cities in the State of New York with one million or more people (i.e. NYC).

  2. How is the Property Tax Abatement calculated?

    1. The property tax abatement (PTA) is calculated as 20% of a property owner’s system value after the NYSERDA rebate (e.g. the NY-Sun Incentive). Specifically, it is calculated at 5% of the solar system’s “eligible expenditures” each year for four years.

    2. Note: Abatements are capped at $62,500 per year or $250,000 total. They may not exceed the owner’s property tax liability for any given year, and any unused balances may not be carried forward

    3. Also note: The compliance period for the PTA is four years, starting with the tax year (July 1-June 30) in which the PTA begins and including the three tax years immediately following.

    4. When the system was “placed in service” affects how the PTA is calculated. It is the latter of: (1) the date the system started to generate electricity, or (2) the date the NYC Department of Building (DOB) issues the letter of completion for the application.

  3. What are considered “eligible expenditures”?

    1. Eligible solar electric generating system expenditures include: design fees, application fees (construction and electrical), and construction costs, among other costs. Construction costs may include labor, materials and equipment.

    2. Note: expenditures shall NOT include: (a) expenditures incurred before August 5, 2008; (b) any interest or finance charges; or (c) any expenditures using a federal, state or local grant. (See 1 RCNY §105-02)

  4. Who is eligible for the Property Tax Abatement?

    1. Property owners who have solar installed on their property are eligible for the PTA and are considered to be applicants for the property tax abatement. If the property is held as a cooperative or a condominium, then the board of managers of the condo or the board of directors of a coop is eligible for the PTA. (See 1 RCNY §105-02 and CUNY’s NYC Multi-Family Guide)

    2. Note: The applicant for the property tax abatement (the property owner) is different from the applicant of record (the registered design professional who filed the permit application).

    3. Note: Property owners may receive the PTA regardless of whether they purchase, finance, or lease the solar system.

    4. Note: No building shall be eligible for more than one tax abatement. (See NY Real Property Tax Law §499-AAAA (2012))

  5. Is the PTA tied to the person or to the property?

    1. The Property Tax Abatement is tied to the property. Therefore, if the current owner has filed a solar Property Tax Abatement application and sells the property, then the abatement stays with the property and is transferred to the new owner of the property.

  6. What is the general process for applying for the PTA?

    1. Note: The solar installer or contractor will generally handle the paperwork involved in the PTA application.

    2. A PTA4 form must first be filed with the Department of Buildings’ (DOB) Development Hub through its eFiling system.

    3. After all inspections are passed, the DOB will sign off and issue the Letter of Completion. DOB will forward the tax abatement application to the Department of Finance (DOF) for processing the abatement.

    4. The DOF will send the applicant (property owner) an official confirmation letter of the tax abatement acknowledging that the abatement has been granted and including the percentage of property tax deduction (see above Q2A for more detail). Note: The applicant is defined by the Rules of the City of New York (RCNY) and is discussed in Q3A above.

    5. Note: The DOF administers the PTA in cooperation with the DOB.

  7. What is the deadline to submit applications to the DOB in order to receive the PTA in the same fiscal year?

    1. March 15. In accordance with Title 4-C of Article 4 of the New York State Real Property Tax Law and 1 RCNY 105-02, applications must be received by DOB by March 15th in order to qualify for a property tax abatement to take effect on July 1st of the same calendar year.

  8. What is the PTA timeline?

    1. In the fall of 2016, the PTA was extended for two more years. The deadline to apply for the solar PTA is now January 1, 2019. Projects will need utility interconnection approval and electrical sign-off by January 1, 2019 and construction sign-off by May 15th, 2019 in order to qualify at all unless the expiration date is extended again. Note that construction sign-off must be requested to DOB by March 15th, 2019 in order to give DOB enough time to review forms and complete the PTA inspection.

  9. When will the PTA be applied to the customer’s bill?

    1. If construction sign-off is received by May 15th, then the PTA will be applied on the July 1st bill of the same year. Construction sign-off is issued by DOB on the building permits.

  10. If the PTA is signed off after May 15, 2017 -- for example, June 29, 2017 -- will the customer get the PTA the following year (July 2018)?

    1. Yes. If the PTA is signed off on June 29th, 2017, then the PTA would be applied the following year in July 2018.

  11. Will the PTA ever expire?

    1. Yes. The solar PTA was set to expire on December 31, 2016. It had been extended before as well (see Senate Bill S0746A),. The next expiration data is January 1, 2019.

    2. Now that the PTA has been extended until January 1, 2019, all projects seeking the abatement will need: (1) utility interconnection approval and DOB’s electrical sign-off by January 1, 2019; and, (2) DOB’s construction sign-off by May 15th, 2019 in order to qualify at all unless the expiration date is extended again. Therefore, at present, March 15, 2019 is the final deadline to submit the PTA application to DOB.

    3. For more information, you may find CUNY’s summary of the PTA useful. Also, see here for the PTA law.

    4. Sustainable CUNY helped to initially develop the PTA and provided the analysis that supported the PTA back in 2009. Sustainable Believing that the market still requires this incentive, Sustainable CUNY conducted an analysis that made the case for extending the PTA in 2014 and 2016. In addition, Sustainable CUNY formed a small group of industry representatives to discuss ways to make the PTA law encourage a more efficient, streamlined solar process in NYC. Sustainable CUNY outlined the strategy of small working groups to address issues like this at the recent industry stakeholder meetings, and look forward to industry participation. It is critical to receive industry input and feedback. Please send an email to nysolar@cuny.edu if you are interested.

  12. Who decides whether to extend the PTA?

    1. To extend the PTA, New York State law must be changed. As a result, a bill must be passed by both the NYS Assembly and NYS Senate and then signed by the Governor.

  13. How is the Property Tax Abatement filed when there is one tax bill associated with multiple buildings?

    1. The property tax is billed under the BBL (borough-block-lot) number, not under the number of buildings. Thus, if there are multiple buildings on one BBL, then each separate building on the same tax lot qualifies as an “eligible building,” and each building may take advantage of the tax abatement. In sum, the DOF will apply multiple abatements to a single BBL.

    2. On the flip side, one building is eligible for one abatement regardless of the number of tax lots upon which it resides.

    3. As there is only one property tax bill, it is often difficult to identify which property owners get the abatement if there are multiple owners are under the same BBL. In such a case, the building owners or management will need to come to an internal agreement.

  14. What is the maximum abatement per building?

    1. The maximum PTA is $62,500 per year (or $250,000 total) per building.

    2. Example: If there are 3 buildings on 1 Borough-Block-Lot (BBL), then the maximum abatement will be: $62,500 x 3 = $187,500.

  15. How many PTA discounts can one customer obtain?

    1. The number of PTA discounts one customer can obtain depends on the number of buildings the customer owns. Based on PTA law, each building is only eligible for one solar property tax abatement.

      1. Condo or coop ownership and the PTA: Building types of condo or co-op ownership structures are only eligible to receive one tax abatement. For example, a single condo building may have multiple tax lots, but the condo board of managers is the only eligible applicant. Therefore, the single abatement typically gets split between multiple tax lots for the single building.

  16. Now that the solar PTA has been extended until January 1, 2019, if a property owner is interested in adding more solar to her property after the PTA has already been applied, is she able to apply for another PTA?

    1. The PTA is tied to the building, not the owner. It is limited to a four-year abatement starting on July 1 following the Department of Buildings’ approval. While an eligible building is limited to a single abatement, if a property owner (whether it is the same one who originally applied for the solar PTA or a new owner of the same building) wants to amend the original PTA4 form, she may if: 1) it is within the original four year time frame, and 2) the abatement in the remaining years of the four-year time frame will not exceed the lesser of total taxes due or $62,500. Importantly, any changes to the original PV system as well as the additional panels must be code compliant with the most recent rules and procedures.

    2. For more information, please see:

      1. Real Property Tax Law: RPTL §499-bbbb, RPTL §499-cccc

      2. NY Senate Bill extending the solar PTA: S7110

      3. DOB’s website: General information: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/business/solar-panel.page and or FAQ: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/buildings/business/solar-faq.page

      4. DOF’s website: http://www1.nyc.gov/site/finance/benefits/landlords-solar-roof.page

      5. Sustainable CUNY’s NY Solar Map & Portal resources: General incentives information: https://nysolarmap.com/financing-solar/incentives/ and or FAQ: https://nysolarmap.com/going-solar/contractors-installers/installing-solar-in-new-york-city/nyc-installers-faq/

  17. Where can I find copies of the BBL property tax bill? I want to see if the solar Property Tax Abatement was applied.

    1. Please visit this link to see if the solar Property Tax Abatement was applied.

  18. Is there a process to convert a non-PTA filing to PTA filing to pursue the Property Tax Abatement after installation?

    1. The non-PTA application has to be withdrawn and completely re-filed.

  19. If I did not originally file for a PTA and my solar installation is already interconnected, am I still eligible for the PTA?

    1. If the original solar application is already signed off, then a new application would need to be filed. This new filing will need to comply with all the current NYC codes ((2014 Fire Code, 2014 Building Code, 2014 NYCECC etc.). This means that changes to the panel array may be needed to ensure compliance. If these code requirements are not met then tax abatement cannot be granted.    

  20. Does the PTA apply to batteries or solar+storage?

    1. The PTA law does not specifically address batteries. Solar+storage systems may be eligible for the PTA, but the language in the law does not address it.

      1. Note: To learn more about solar+storage in NYC, see Sustainable CUNY’s Smart DG Hub.

  21. Does the PTA apply to solar systems that are not tied to the grid?

    1. The PTA law does not specifically address solar systems that are not connected to the grid. However, the DOB requires the utility approval letter for the PTA per RCNY 105-02, which would not be issued for installing an off grid system.

  22. How can a homeowner access the PTA if the solar company does not offer their customers this option?

    1. If the solar company does not file for the PTA in the building permit, then it is unlikely the homeowner will be able to get the PTA because of the timing of filing the application.

    2. Importantly, the customer may still take advantage of the New York State solar tax credit, which is an income tax credit.

      1. This credit can be claimed for a leased system, but the homeowner has to claim it each year for the amount the homeowner pays for the lease (i.e. 25% of those is the value of the credit). The homeowner can do that for 15 years or until he/she reaches the total of $5,000 for the credit. See here for information on NY solar tax-related issues.

 

  1. If a solar PV system is not grid-tied, but is hooked up to a self-contained unit of batteries, does it still qualify for any solar incentives?

    1. The solar PTA provides an incentive for solar electric generating systems only (see NY Real Property Tax Law §499-aaaa(10) and 1 RCNY §105-02 for more detail) and does not include storage equipment.

      1. Batteries aren’t specifically excluded from the PTA. At your discretion, you could try applying for the PTA with the batteries included, but DOB may reject the battery portion. At least you should still be able to use the PTA towards the PV part of the system.

      2. Note: Pursuing this option may cause time delays.

    2. The federal tax credit applies to any complete solar power package and applies to equipment and installation costs. Batteries connected to a solar system may also qualify for the federal tax credit. See DG Hub Finance Fact sheet, question 4, page 5.

    3. NYSERDA also has other finance solutions that could be applied towards an energy storage system but they are more targeted towards residential customers rather than your hotel client. See the Appendix in the DG Hub Finance Fact sheet (page 6) for other storage incentives.

    4. There may be other incentives as well.

    5. IMPORTANT NOTE: *Please consult your tax professional to verify your eligibility for tax benefits.*

 

  1. What is the OTRC? Is it required for residential and commercial installation of solar battery banks?

    1. The OTCR stands for the Office of Technical Certification and Research. See here.

      1. The OTCR involvement in the Energy Storage System permitting process is covered on page 7 of the guide.

  1. Are site surveys required for solar systems on wetlands?

    1. No. Site surveys are only required for flood hazard areas in certain instances.

  2. If a solar project will be constructed in a wetlands area, are Department of Environmental Conservation permits required for solar installation?

    1. Solar installation is not in the category of work that requires a Department of Environmental Conservation permit according to Local Law (LL 21/09) unless you are doing anything in the ground like trenching for conduit or digging for ground mount footings. Reference Buildings Bulletin 2009-012.

  3. What do I need to know and do if the Tidal Wetlands, Freshwater Wetlands, or Coastal Erosion Hazard Map Check areas are marked YES on the property's BIN page in BIS?

    1. Check the appropriate maps to see if your property is in the flagged areas.

    2. Submit a copy of the map as “Supporting Documentation” in the Hub system.

    3. A solar installation is not in the category of work that requires a Department of Environmental Conservation permit according to Local Law 21/09 unless you are doing construction in the ground like trenching for conduit or digging for ground mount footings. Reference Buildings Bulletin 2009-012

    4. Put a statement on the plans stating:

      1. “I certify this property is in a Freshwater Wetlands, Tidal Wetlands, or Coastal Erosion Hazard area, but the category of work does not require compliance with LL 21/09."

  1. What are the relevant zoning restrictions to be aware of when installing solar?

    1. Zoning restrictions vary depending on whether the building is zoned as residential or commercial. See specifics below in Q2 and Q3.

    2. Zoning restrictions include setback and height limitations.

  2. What are the zoning restrictions for RESIDENTIAL buildings or portions of mixed use buildings where residential bulk applies?

    1. Solar panels on residential buildings are a permitted obstruction up to 4 feet in height per ZR 23-62(m). However, any roof with a slope greater than 20 degrees is limited to 18 inches in height as measured perpendicular to the roof surface.

    2. SCENARIO 1: Most common: If the proposed installation is 4 feet or under in height, a height/setback diagram will not be required. In lieu of providing a zoning height/setback diagram, applicants may provide the following note on drawings: "The solar system installation complies with ZR 23-62(m).”

    3. SCENARIO 2: If the proposed solar panels, on a residential building, are designed to be elevated over 4 feet above the roof level, applicants must show a zoning height/setback diagram to demonstrate compliance with ZR 23-62(m)(2) or ZR 23-62(m)(3).

    4. *Note: Both scenarios may be applied to a residential building with a legally existing non-compliant bulk.

  3. As is it pertains to COMMERCIAL buildings, what are the zoning restrictions (i.e., setback and height) for solar installations?

    1. Solar panels on commercial buildings are a permitted obstruction up to 4 feet in height per ZR 33-42(n)(1). However, any roof with a slope greater than 20 degrees is limited to 18 inches in height as measured perpendicular to the roof surface.

    2. SCENARIO 1: If the proposed installation is 4 feet or under in height, a height/setback diagram will not be required. In lieu of providing a zoning height/setback diagram, applicants may provide the following note on drawings: “The solar system installation complies with ZR 33-42(n)(1).”

    3. SCENARIO 2: If the proposed solar panels, on commercial buildings, are designed to be elevated over 4 feet above the roof level, applicants must show a zoning height/setback diagram to demonstrate compliance with ZR 33-42(n)(2) or ZR 33-42(n)(3).

    4. *Note: Both scenarios may be applied to a commercial building with a legally existing non-compliant bulk.

Last Updated : June 2016