Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo this week signed legislation that will allow Long Island homeowners to fund the purchase of their rooftop solar energy systems through state loans that are paid back through their energy bill.
The bill, originally proposed two years ago by Assemb. Steven Englebright (D-Setauket) but sponsored by two upstate legislators, is expected to give a needed boost to the local solar rooftop market, which this summer was beset by a temporary gap in funding from the Long Island Power Authority. The funding has been restored.
The new law allows customers to borrow up to $25,000 of the cost of a solar system through state loans at around 3 percent to 4 percent interest. LIPA already offers a related on-bill financing plan for energy-saving products such as high-efficiency gas and oil burners, solar hot-water heaters and certain energy-saving renovations. The loans are through the New York State Energy Research and Development Agency.
The program is aimed at addressing the traditionally high price tags of solar systems, which can cost upward of $50,000 for the largest 10-kilowatt ones. The program aims to reduce energy bills by approximately the amount of the monthly loan payment -- thus largely eliminating the high upfront cost of systems.
Englebright, a co-sponsor of the newly signed bill who has long supported renewable energy causes, hailed its passage.
"This adds incentives in a way that over time more and more people will have an opportunity to save money and improve home equity" by the addition of energy-producing solar panels, he said.
LIPA spokeswoman Elizabeth Flagler said the authority will offer the program. Details weren't immediately available. Englebright and local installers say they expect the authority to be quick to adopt it.
It's not just solar panels that are eligible for on-bill financing. The program also applies to wind energy, fuel cells, small hydroelectric projects and microturbines, among others, said Kate Muller of NYSERDA.
Matt Nelligan, a senior aide to state Sen. George Maziarz (R-Newfane), who sponsored the bill, said the measure also would provide up to $50,000 in loans to small businesses and not-for-profits to install solar energy systems. Kevin MacLeod, a solar installer with KPS Solar in Bay Shore, said he spent the better part of two years urging legislators to pass the bill. "I am happy it has finally become law and it comes at the perfect time," he said, as local installers who sell systems face competition from national leasing companies.
Gordian Raacke, executive director of Renewable Energy Long, said the program will give a big boost to home solar sales because it will address the high-cost of systems.
"Obviously, financing is a big hurdle" to home solar adoption, he said. "There's still relatively high upfront costs for solar. This should be a really important part to grow the market and make it available for more people."