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Solar advocates worry increase in number of consumers will slow if incentives go away

Ellen Abbott
WRVO File Photo

The latest drive for Solarize CNY is the largest campaign the grassroots solarize group has tackled, moving beyond Onondaga County into surrounding counties.  And since this latest push started, more than 700 homeowners have signed up for a site assessment to look at the feasibility of a solar system on their property. But while the solarize movement has been successful so far, there are concerns about the future.

One of the things that has made solar an easier sell during solarize drives, are the incentives, according to Chris Carrick of the Central New York Regional Planning and Development Board.

"The NYSERDA grant at this point covers about 20 percent of the cost, at least for our program, we have a discounted price to start with. The federal tax credit is 30 percent after the grant. There’s a state tax credit of 20 percent applied after the grant. When you add up all of these different incentives it covers about two-thirds of the cost,” said Carrick.

The problem is some of these incentives, like the NYSERDA grants are going down. The federal tax credit expires at the end of next year. Carrick says he expects another strong year next year for Solarize, but is not sure after that.

“The question is what happens in 2017. The industry is trying to drive down prices as much as they can. That’s part of what makes solarize work for the installers, because we provide qualified leads, so rather than beating the bushes for any customer they can find, we help qualify those customers and generate interest,” said Carrick.

Carrick says it makes sense to keep incentives going, because solar power brings jobs to upstate New York. In the meantime, Carrick expects the next Solarize CNY drive will focus on shared or community solar. That would allow neighbors who don’t have good solar access on their roof, to go in with a shared solar system constructed elsewhere. He says this development could be a game changer.

"As a rule of thumb, only 25 percent of homes in any given neighborhood or community are good for solar, so this is a good opportunity for the 75 percent of the rest of us to go solar.”