In New York City, innovative measures have gone into effect over the last decade that expand access to solar technology. One key measure was the passing of Zone Green in 2012, which allowed solar energy systems up to four feet in height as a permitted obstruction on the roof of a building. For R6 to R10 districts, where multi-family residential buildings are permitted, the systems could potentially go up to 15 feet but are limited by the zoning text to only 25% lot coverage of the roof. Most recently, New York City Comptroller Brad Lander is proposing Public Solar NYC, an initiative that would add at least 600 megawatts of solar capacity to the city’s grid over the next eight years using New York’s 1.6 billion square feet of rooftop.
Zone Green was impactful – solar panel capacity citywide quadrupled between 2013 and 2016, from 25 megawatts to 92 megawatts in 2016. These numbers contribute to the city’s overall goal of installing 1000 MW of solar technology citywide by 2030, which is estimated to save the city more than $70 million in annual energy costs, and decreasing its yearly carbon dioxide equivalent by over 105,000 metric tons. According to the New York City Comptroller’s Office on its recently published Climate Dashboard, the city is more than 70 MW behind in this year alone to be on track to meet the 2030 goal.
Madelaine Britt is a Policy Analyst at Citizens Housing & Planning Council. Julie Tighe is President of New York League of Conservation Voters.