New York among nation’s solar leaders

Media Contacts
Heather Leibowitz

Environment New York Research and Policy Center

New York, NY – New York has more solar panels than most major American cities, ranking 8th among dozens of metropolitan areas analyzed in a new report. The Big Apple’s place, highest among Northeastern cities, was owed primarily to the statewide NY-SUN Initiative, advocates said today.

“Thanks to its forward-thinking programs and leaders like Governor Andrew Cuomo,” said Heather Leibowitz, Director of Environment New York, “Our report shows that New York really shines when it comes to solar power.”

Los Angeles, San Diego, and Phoenix topped the list for most solar power in the Environment New York Research & Policy Center analysis, Shining Cities 2016: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America. Plummeting costs, increasing public concern over global warming, and technological innovation have all played a role in spurring the growth of solar energy, which last year was enough to power 5.4 million American homes.

The report found cities at the vanguard of the nation’s solar boom, with the top 20 solar cities – representing just 0.1 percent of U.S. land area – accounting for 6 percent of U.S. solar photovoltaic capacity at the end of 2015.

As population centers, cities are home to ample rooftop space and large electricity markets. Through power purchase agreements, promoting community solar programs, and installing solar on government property, city governments can play a leading role in developing solar energy.

New York City, for example, is now developing “community solar” policies, which aims to allow residents who are unable to install solar panels on their own buildings a chance to buy shares in the solar energy system, boosting solar power city-wide.

“In order for New York City to lead the globe in the effort to combat climate change, every agency needs to think about sustainability and energy efficiency with every project now and in the future,” said Council Member Donovan Richards. “To meet the goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050, we’re going to have to get creative and reach out to all corners of New York to truly make an impact. I’d like to thank all of our partners across the City and State who have committed to making New York greener and more sustainable by moving towards solar energy.”

“As one of the nation’s largest cities, New York must lead in harnessing solar energy,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “While New York is eighth in the nation in total installed solar capacity, we’re only 37th in capacity adjusted for population. The challenge is clear: we must continue to reduce barriers for buildings and whole communities to buy into solar power generation.”

According to researchers who examined solar power installations in 64 American cities in nearly every state, New York City had enough solar capacity at the end of last year to power over 14,000 homes.

While solar power is growing in New York and throughout the nation, utility companies are campaigning intensely to increase fees for rooftop solar, which they see as a direct threat to their business model.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court has also stalled the Clean Power Plan, an Obama administration initiative to cap carbon pollution from power plants and provide incentives for clean energy like solar.

Environment New York and other advocates urged cities to move forward with solar power development in spite of these attacks. 

“Cities have been at the forefront of environmental change for decades,” said Leibowitz. “And there’s no reason for them to stop now. The polluters can’t change the fact that solar power makes sense for our climate, our health, and our wallets.”