Sun shines on New York solar energy boom

 24 Feb 2014 - 0:58


NEW YORK: On a rooftop in the Bronx far from the skyscrapers of Manhattan, 4,760 panels soak up the winter rays. Welcome to the solar power boom in New York state.
Robert Kline, director of commercial sales for the Ross Solar Group that installed the panels, is delighted. “It is the largest (solar) installation in the history of New York City,” he said.
The 1.6MW installation on the Jetro Cash and Carry has been proudly singled out by New York governor Andrew Cuomo as a prime example of a drive to haul the state into a new dawn.
New York has long lagged behind California and even neighbouring states, let alone Europe, when it comes to generating solar energy, but that is slowly changing. In 2012, Cuomo set up the public-private NY-Sun Initiative with $800m, and 300MW of solar capacity have since been installed in the state, more than during the previous 10 years.
Cuomo now wants to extend the programme until 2023 with an additional nearly $1bn to generate another 3,000MW. Experts say that would create 13,000 jobs and bring down greenhouse emissions by 2.3 million tonnes a year.
California and Arizona are home to more than 80 percent of solar installations in the United States, but Cory Honeyman — a solar analyst at GTM Research — says New York is coming into its own. “New York definitively is one of the hotter markets to watch, as we expect a really significant ramp up in build out of projects for both residential and non-residential markets,” he said.
This is a godsend for more than 400 specialised companies competing for their share of the ballooning market. In the Bronx, one of them, OnForce Solar, saw its revenue triple last year and hopes to double it again this year, chief executive officer Charles Feit said. He says he has doubled, even tripled staff every year since he started and that it was the economic argument that was driving business home.
“In New York City, there is so much opportunity,” agreed David Sandbank, OnForce president and vice president of the New York Solar Energy Industries Association. 
While Manhattan is a problem due to strict regulations, other boroughs are full of huge rooftops and business owners looking to save on some of the highest electricity costs in the country.
“With longevity and transparency, we’re creating an industry,” he said, adding 3,300 new jobs had already been created. Jetro Cash and Carry hopes to save 40 percent of their $250,000 electricity bill a year, says Kline. AFP