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It appears the days when exorbitant costs and project-crippling bureaucracy prevent New York City from living up to its potential as a shining example for solar power are numbered. The city has just surpassed its goal of installing 8.1 MW of PV under the federally funded Solar America City program three years ahead of schedule, thanks to an 800 percent increase in solar energy capacity since 2006. At the same time, NYC has tripled the installed PV on city-owned buildings by putting online 10 new projects totaling 648 kW.

The city’s solar future looks equally bright. A recent New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) report examining different cost scenarios for the future of PV estimated that in New York City solar energy will reach retail parity far sooner than in other parts of the state, possibly as early as 2017; this is due in part to current high energy costs in NYC. For the same reason, NYSERDA also found that concentrating new PV projects downstate could cut the state’s goal of installing 5,000 MW of solar by 2025 by $1 billion.

Even before the report’s completion, the authority was tackling the latter finding. In 2011, NYSERDA began combating the disparity in installed PV in NYC versus the rest of the state by diverting funds from one of its incentive programs to downstate regions. Last year, the fund doled out $30 million for the installation of 26.6 MW of PV in downstate areas, with $25 million allocated for New York City and parts of the Hudson Valley just to the north of the city.

Despite the recent progress, NYC has a lot of catching up to do. The city’s solar installations only account for 6 percent of the state’s total installed PV as of 2011, and it lags far behind solar leaders like Berlin, where installed capacity measures in the thousands of megawatts. Still, with newly announced projects like a 20 MW combined solar and wind facility at Fresh Kills on Staten Island, NYC’s solar momentum seems unlikely to slow down anytime soon.