Despite NYC’s solar policy, incentive programs, and the numerous economic and environmental benefits that come with it, only a few homeowners in NYC have been able to install solar panels. It seems that the main obstacle to installing solar panels in residential areas, however, is not the initial investment or the construction, but New York City’s complex bureaucracy.
The New York Times reports that in the 2011 fiscal year, only 75 residential property owners received approval to install solar panels. Although numbers have grown over the past three years, from five approved in 2009 to 13 in 2010 in residential areas, most of the limitations stem from a combination of physical limitations in certain homes, and the slow process to receive approval.
Not every building is suitable for solar panels, although almost two thirds in the city certainly are, as we learned from the NYC Solar Map. To maximize the panels solar power potential, panels must be placed at a 30 to 40 degree angle facing south. Installation would be easier on a sloped roof, but a flat roof top would require some sort of support to get the correct angle. Some roofs are just too small, and many of them are covered with too much shade from the surrounding trees.
In Carroll Gardens, for example, one resident could not install a solar panel because the city would not let him prune the trees shading his roof. Roger Ditman, a Park Slope resident, wanted to install solar panels on his brownstone since last year, but has found the whole process to be frustrating. The New York Times reports that it took six months for him to get clearance from the Landmarks Preservation Commission, and now he has to wait for approval from the Fire Department.
“If the city is serious about pushing solar, they have to have one agency to which you can go,” he told the New York Times.
Ditman, however, would still need to get a permit from the Department of Buildings, which would conduct a full review after the panel is installed. This causes even more frustration because customers and contractors have to move the panels around in light of possible objections.
Despite these shortcomings, the Department of Buildings is looking to rework some of its policies, and is even providing educational materials to help licensed contractors and engineers. Although the initial investments are high and the complex approval process will take time to improve, solar panels are still very much worth installing. Rather than paying hundreds of dollars a month, home owners can instead have energy bills in the single digits. As NYC moves towards a more sustainable future, it isn’t too surprising that it will need to overcome some hurdles to get there.
Via New York Times