TOWN OF HUNTINGTON, New York, April 16
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
In boosting the job supply, bringing about lowered electrical costs for consumers and keeping the environment clean, there are several reasons why federal, state and local government officials are backing the solar-energy push across the United States; and Huntington is a town on the forefront of that effort.
“Solarize Huntington really is a true and enlightened partnership of the town, the state and the federal government,” Congressman Steve Israel (D-New York) said at a press conference April 9. “[The program] protects our environment, creates jobs and protects consumers.”
Solarize Huntington is a group-purchasing pilot program sponsored by the Town of Huntington and The City University of New York (CUNY) that aims to reduce the costs of installing solar panels and systems by leveraging the collective purchasing power of homeowners that wish to go solar. While similar initiatives have sprung up in New York, Solarize Huntington is the first of its kind on Long Island and will begin its four-month-long trial this month. The program boasts a tiered pricing structure, community educational events and outreach and a competitively-selected installer – who has yet to be announced as of press time Monday.
“We’ve tried to step out and be on the forefront of getting solar power in Huntington,” Huntington Councilman Gene Cook said.
Along with the Solarize Huntington imitative, the Town of Huntington has also worked to make solar energy installation less-strenuous for residents and businesses through the “Solar Energy System Fast Track Permit Application,” which was introduced as a part of the Long Island Unified Solar Permit Initiative and allows for expedited review of solar-panel permit applications.
Other “green” Huntington projects can be seen in 2011 when the town installed a Solar Photo-Voltaic Renewable Generating System on the roof of town hall. The system is estimated to output 34,136 kilowatt hours of power and to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 22 metric tons per year.
But, while Huntington has emerged as a “shining example” for solar initiatives, as Heather Leibowitz of Environmental New York said, it’s just one of many in the effort to power up the country using earth’s largest light bulb: the sun.
During the April 9 conference, it was announced that the “Shining Cities: 2015” report, which was issued by the Environment New York Research & Policy Center on the same day, found New York City to be the ninth-ranked American city when it comes to solar panel installations. The city has risen to that rank via its 800-percent solar capacity increase over the last six years, according to researchers at the NYC Solar America City partnership.
In turn, with more solar panels requiring installation, more jobs are being created.
Across the country over the last year, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), one out of every 78 new jobs created was in the solar industry. In 2014 alone, 36,000 jobs were created by solar.
Along with new jobs, lowered costs for going solar have come about through program like the Rooftop Solar Challenge, which is conducted by the DOE.
Solar panels now cost about 1 percent of what they had cost 35 years ago; system costs have reduced by 20 percent, the wait-time for permitting has lowered by 40 percent and permitting fees have decreased by 12 percent.
“Simply put, solar power and programs like this just make it that much easier for Americans to be active partners in reducing their own utility bills, protecting the environment, protecting us from weather extremes and creating jobs,” Israel said.
But, as with every sunny day, the threat of a cloud getting in the way is always a possibility. Government officials recognize that threat in the form of tax credits expiring and agencies putting up roadblocks in the way of solar-energy innovation.
The Resident Renewable Energy Tax Credit currently allows taxpayers to claim 30 percent of qualified expenditures for a renewable-energy system, but is set to expire in December 2016.
Israel would like to see that credit extended, but opponents have argued that the credit is too expensive to continue.
“To say that we cannot afford investment tax credits and production tax credits for renewable energies while, at the same time we’re subsidizing the largest oil companies on earth $40 billion a year is to lose all logic,” Israel said. “If you can find $40 billion to subsidize big oil companies, then we can find the tax credits and tax incentives to help homeowners in Huntington and small businesses to deploy solar panels and reduce their utilities cost.”
Originally published: Long Islander News: Half Hollow Hills
(Thursday, April 16, 2015; A10)