A variety of factors has sparked a recent boom in the solar industry in New York City, and the trends seen in the Big Apple could foreshadow how solar will enter other real estate markets across the country.

Solar Popularity Increasing

The number of residential projects across all five boroughs has jumped to more than 5,300 this year – up from 186 in 2011. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, there has been a 70% drop-off in installation costs in recent years. Another factor is the streamlining of government incentives and approvals.

While the upfront expense of installing solar panels on a single-family house is between $20,000 and $50,000, federal, state, and city incentives and tax credits can cut the price in half – or more. Once panels are up and running, monthly energy bills can drop by as much as 85%.

Existing NY Solar Projects

The majority of existing solar projects are on single-family houses on Staten Island, but townhouse owners in Brooklyn and apartment building owners in the Bronx and Queens are getting on board to harness the sun’s rays.

Both New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio have called for aggressive renewable energy goals, and Mr. de Blasio recently unveiled a 3,152-panel rooftop installation at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, part of a goal of generating 100 megawatts of renewable energy on public buildings by 2025.

Brooklyn Case Study

Ann Schaetzel, a 70-year-old filmmaker, recently converted her two-family home in Brooklyn to solar power. She joined a solar purchasing group with four other homeowners and learned about solar energy, financing options, and the city’s permitting process. The group was able to negotiate a 20% discount on installation costs.

Ms. Schaetzel’s 4.25-kilowatt solar system has 14 solar panels, determined by the installers as the optimum size for her home based on energy consumption. Her electricity bill in August of 2016 was $36.10, a fraction of the $250.19 she paid in August 2015. The system’s price was $27,225, but she paid only $6,925 after incentives, credits, and rebates.

Homeowners are required to remain on the grid so they can return any excess energy (which they are credited for), and to have electricity in case there is a run of inclement weather.

Long-Term Solar Savings

Long-term owners have found a friend in solar power, and they can save 50%-80% on their electricity bills. Having a rooftop that isn’t often obstructed to sunlight by surrounding buildings and a rooftop large enough to install enough panels while following the local fire code are important factors to consider when evaluating the costs and benefits of installing a solar panel system. As installation costs drop further and more streamlining of government incentives and processes occur, residential solar panels will continue to make up a greater percentage of the energy we consume.

As prices continue to drop and installations skyrocket, realtors and lenders across the nation can look to solar pioneer cities like New York City, Honolulu, San Diego and Indianapolis to see how those markets were affected by the shift.

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