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Residents in NYC have access to Federal, State and NYC incentives. However, the goal of most incentive programs are to reach 'grid parity' with the costs of other energy sources. As the costs of installing solar go down, so do the incentives, with many incentive programs designed to 'sunset' in the next 18 months to five years.

Every Kilowatt of Solar in NYC Helps All

Where energy is generated is a crucial part of America's energy equation and the same is true for solar. Urban areas like NYC are the load centers that need power, clean renewable power, generated locally. Where solar installations are located can be a valuable component of fully utilizing solar as a resource, especially on America’s largest grid. Targeted solar power development has the ability to play a critical role in reducing peak demand while also potentially deferring or eliminating the need for costly upgrades to the electrical system that would increase electricity rates. Additionally, as every kilowatt of solar helps reduce demand on the grid on those hot days, it also reduces the need to rely on dirty generators which can impact the quality of the air that all New Yorker's breathe.


Before Going Solar

  1. Start by checking the solar potential of your roof or property on the NY Solar Map. If your roof is not suitable, learn about 'shared solar' options
  2. Consult a home energy efficiency professional prior to installing a solar PV system. Obtain an understanding of your electrical energy use by looking at a full year of your electricity bills. A solar installer or general contractor should also check to see if your roof needs to be reinforced or replaced.
  3. Seek bids from multiple solar companies and installers that guarantee their work. Whenever possible use professionals certified by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners who are on the New York State Research and Development Authority's (NYSERDA) Solar Electric Installers list. Your selected installer or 'contractor' will inspect your location to determine the best system size and placement options, prepare and submit the associated paperwork and perform all aspects of the installation. 
  4. Learn about the available PV incentives and financing options to ensure that you have the information you need to make the best decisions.

Solar Basics

There are a variety of solar PV technologies available for your home or business. Read below to learn more.


Solar electric systems, otherwise known as photovoltaic (PV) systems, convert sunlight into electricity. Solar cells, the basic building blocks of a PV system, consist of semiconductor materials. When sunlight is absorbed by these materials, the solar energy knocks electrons loose from their atoms. This phenomenon is called the "photoelectric effect." These free electrons then travel into a circuit built into the solar cell to form electrical current. Multiple solar cells are included in solar modules, which are wired together into an array that will generate electricity for your home. Only sunlight of certain wavelengths will work efficiently to create electricity. PV systems can still produce electricity on cloudy days, but not as much as on a sunny day. For more about the basics of PV, visit the Department of Energy, NREL, EIA, and Solar Technologies Program websites for more solar energy resources. 

Most PV systems today connect to the local utility system so the consumer can still receive electricity from the grid to power their home at night. Net Metering allows the consumer to send any excess electricity generated during the day from the consumer's solar system back out to the grid in exchange for credits. Using the free electricity from your solar system will lower your electric bills and decrease your carbon footprint.


PV panels produce DC electricity, which is converted into AC power by an inverter. Generally there is only one inverter for an entire array of panels, but some systems have a newer technology called micro-inverters where each solar panel feeds into a small inverter. Micro-inverters are more efficient, although they can also be more expensive. A similar new technology is ‘DC optimizers’, which provide similar efficiencies and panel-level monitoring but are connected to a central inverter. Appropriate technologies vary depending on the application, and you should consult with a certified solar installer to decide what is right for your needs.


The performance of a solar cell is measured in terms of its efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity. There are a variety of solar cell materials available, which vary in conversion efficiency.


A solar cell consists of semiconductor materials. Silicon remains the most popular material for solar cells, including these types:

* Monocrystalline or single crystal silicon
* Multicrystalline silicon
* Polycrystalline silicon
* Amorphous silicon

The absorption coefficient of a material indicates how far light with a specific wavelength (or energy) can penetrate the material before being absorbed. A small absorption coefficient means that light is not readily absorbed by the material. Again, the absorption coefficient of a solar cell depends on two factors: the material making up the cell, and the wavelength or energy of the light being absorbed.


Thin film solar cells use layers of semiconductor materials only a few micrometers thick. Thin film technology has made it possible for solar cells to now double as these materials:

* Rooftop or solar shingles
* Roof tiles
* Building facades
* Glazing for skylights or atria.

Thin-film rooftop or solar shingles, made with various non-crystalline materials, are just now starting to enter the residential market. The following are benefits of these solar shingles:

* Attractive integration into homes
* Dual purpose: serves as both roofing material and electricity generator
* Durability

Commercially-available solar shingles generally have lower efficiencies and greater expense compared with the standard small solar electric system.

For more information on solar PV technologies, visit the Department of Energy, NREL, EIA, and Solar Technologies Program websites.

Step by Step

  1. Evaluate the building’s solar potential (see solar map solar potential calculator)

  2. Learn about solar technologies (see solar basics)

  3. Learn about available PV incentives

  4. Gather energy bills and roof schematic drawings (if available), and contact solar installers using the 'solar connect' feature on the map

  5. Receive remote and on-site evaluations from contractors to get at least 3 quotes

  6. Evaluate if your roof needs to be reinforced or replaced

  7. Contact references from solar contractors

  8. Evaluate costs and financing options to decide on direct ownership or third-party ownership

  9. Sign contract with selected solar installer

  10. The solar contractor files applications for incentives and permits; the installation moves forward