Brooklyn Boro

This Brooklyn pol is trying to make solar panel installation easier

March 8, 2023 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Councilmember Lincoln Restler introduced legislation on Wednesday that would make it easier for New Yorkers to install solar panels on rooftops, something that is currently difficult for many homeowners because of restrictive clearance requirements.

The bill is co-sponsored by Council Members Alexa Avilés, James Gennaro, and Oswald Feliz.

Councilmember Lincoln Restler. Photo courtesy of Robert London

“New York City should be leading on solar energy, but outdated regulations have us falling behind,” said Councilmember Lincoln Restler. “This isn’t an issue of industry capacity or technology; it’s an issue of outdated regulations and bureaucracy. In order to achieve our climate goals, we must do everything we can to safely maximize utilization of solar energy.”

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Currently, many smaller buildings are unable to install solar panels because the fire code restricts the amount of available space on rooftops. This legislation will reduce the width of required rooftop clearance pathways and allow for adjoining buildings to be consolidated for the purposes of complying with the code. Together, these changes will make it feasible for more small buildings to install solar and start reaping the benefits of clean energy.

Increasing solar capacity is critical to meeting New York City’s emission reduction goals and becoming carbon neutral. As of 2022, New York City had only reached 16% of the city’s 2030 solar commitment.

There are generous incentives for homeowners who install solar, including federal and state tax credits, property tax abatements, and lower energy bills. The Biden administration extended residential solar tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, paving the way for New York City to maximize solar installation.

A Gowanus rooftop with solar panels. Photo: Patrick Schnell/Brooklyn Microgrid

“New York City is lagging behind city and state mandates to construct enough renewables to meet the climate crises we are facing today,” said NYC Environmental Justice Alliance’s Deputy Director Eunice Ko. “Antiquated regulations burden New Yorkers in developing rooftop solar power, especially those in environmental justice communities. We thank Councilmember Restler for highlighting this issue and taking an important step to accelerate solar energy development in the five boroughs safely and expeditiously.”

“Rooftop solar empowers New Yorkers to lower their electric bills and advances environmental justice by reducing our reliance on fossil fuels and creating good local jobs,” said Noah Ginsburg, Executive Director of New York Solar Energy Industries Association.

Solar panels line the roof of Ikea’s Brooklyn store in Red Hook. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan

“New York City’s stringent rooftop access requirements prevent many New Yorkers from installing solar and impede progress toward the City’s one gigawatt solar goal. NYSEIA supports Councilmember Restler’s proposal, which would preserve rooftop access for our brave firefighters while enabling more New Yorkers to generate their own solar power.”

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