By: Jeffery T. Zawada, CPA
A few years ago, talk of harnessing energy for commercial or residential sustainability didn’t seem practical. With no replicable models for doing community based energy projects or investments, local development didn’t seem thinkable. But with recent opportunities in community solar, crowdfunding and R&D, there has been a surge in commercial and residential development and investment.
What are other States Doing?
In 2012, California-based company, Solar Mosaic, launched their first community solar investment project, allowing 51 California investors to earn 6.38% returns for investing in a 47 kilowatt solar array on the roof of the Youth Partnership in Oakland. Their subsequent 235 KW project ups the ante; opening up to regular folks in California and New York (and accredited investors in all 50 states).
The Mosaic model turns community solar into a simple investment, letting prospective investors select a particular Mosaic project to invest in, with significantly higher returns than parking money in a U.S. Treasury or savings account. For now, it’s limited to broad participation in just two states, New York and California. This is just one example of how solar companies are expanding the reach of solar energy output.
What is New York Doing?
Governor Cuomo, in his 2013 State of the State Address, announced the Charge New York Program; making NYS part of a clean tech economy. Due to the large amount of money NY is investing in panel installations for home and business; various companies in New York offer incentives and tax credits for both residential and commercial businesses looking to recoup some of the costs.
Companies like New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offer many state incentives and credits for commercial and residential builds.
NYSERDA Solar PV Program Incentives- Saves 40-70% off the purchase cost and install on a solar electric system by combining this program with other New York Energy SMART programs;
The NYSERDA Solar Thermal Program Incentive offers both residential and commercial 15-20% off the installed cost of an ST system.
On the state and federal level, NY offers tax credits and exemptions for various solar installations. Some of these include:
The NYS Solar Credit: Is a 25% credit of the total installation cost. You have to file tax form IT-255 to receive the credit. Be mindful; there’s a cap of $5,000 on this. If you are installing a 5kw system, you’ll be due back $5,000 from the state.
The federal solar tax credit: Allows for a 30% solar installation tax credit. This credit differs slightly from NY state credits. You need to calculate your expenses after rebates. For example- on a hypothetical 5kw system priced at $25,000, you can expect back $4,875 (this is by taking the $25,000, subtracting the state solar power rebate of $8,750 to arrive at $16,250. Then take your 30% and you’ll get $4,875).
The NYS solar tax exemption: for the addition of solar panels to your home; giving an exemption from property tax increases, even though you’ll be adding roughly 20 times your annual electricity bill savings to your property value.