The move to solar power has been a clear success story on Long Island. The number of local homes and businesses with panels on their roofs is around 27,000, and the pace of new installations picked up in 2015. But some 80 percent of Long Island Power Authority customers are not candidates for conversions. Some of their roofs have too much shade, some are too old, and some have too many gables, chimneys, vents or mechanical equipment to make installation practical.
Now, there is hope for frustrated would-be solar switchers. An exciting plan pitched by LIPA would allow them to join together in groups of at least 10 to invest in a community array of solar panels. They would share the savings in proportion to the amounts they invested. An array could be placed on the roof of a commercial building whose tenant or owner cannot use all the power it would generate. It could be situated on a large residential property with lots of extra space or on the grounds of a new multifamily development. It could be owned by the participants or by a developer who sells shares in it.
But the proposal, called community net metering, poses a challenge for municipalities — the vast majority have no regulations to deal with it. This is the less glamorous part of converting to solar power, but it is utterly essential. Zoning codes must be revised clearly and sensibly so that constructing a community solar array becomes guaranteed as long as guidelines are met. Turning the permitting of an array into a long-tortured affair serves no one.
LIPA trustees are set to vote on the community array proposal next month. It’s time for municipalities to get busy.
— The editorial board