WHITE PLAINS, NY, September 2, 2011—In the wake of a storm that left nearly nine million customers along the Eastern Seaboard without power, many frustrated homeowners found themselves wishing for independence from an electrical grid so vulnerable to disruptions. “If only I had solar panels on my roof, I wouldn’t be sitting in the dark with all the food in my fridge spoiling!”
Of course, photovoltaic panels, which convert the sun’s energy into electricity, are great year-round—not just following natural disasters. They require little maintenance, since there are no moving parts, and are renewable and non-polluting. The federal government, and many state and local governments, offer various incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels.
The staff at Pace Law School’s Energy & Climate Center is available to speak to the media about the practicality and evolving economics of solar energy for homeowners and businesses. In fact, Pace Law School is leading by example as it installs 90 solar PV panels on the roof of “E-House,” home to the Energy & Climate Center and the Pace Environmental Litigation clinic. These panels will produce 20 Kilowatts of electricity, or about 20% of the building’s usage during the year. (Enough to power two average-sized homes for a year!)
Other energy improvements to E-House, which are already underway, include a new roof, additional insulation in the attic space, a new central AC system and boiler, new thermal insulated windows and doors, awnings on the south side of the building, and LED flat panels for lighting. The work has been supported through a grant from the New York State Economic Development Corporation.
So you want solar panels, too?
Here in New York, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers various incentives for homeowners and businesses to install solar panels. Connecticut, New Jersey and many other states also provide incentives—as do local governments and the federal government, depending on circumstances. For example, the federal government allows homeowners to deduct 30 percent of the project costs from their taxes, and lets businesses depreciate the entire project in 18 months rather than 5 years.
Information about these incentives can be found by searching the online Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. In many cases, these incentives and tax deductions can cut the cost of the solar panels by about half, making the payback period about 10 years. The solar panels usually continue working for about 25 years.
But are they practical?
The Pace Energy & Climate Center staff advocate for practical, cost-effective clean energy solutions for New York and the nation. Solar panels have many advantages for those who can afford them. But at present, the economics of solar energy struggle to compete with other clean-energy alternatives like wind power or high-efficiency combined heat and power.
But make no mistake about it—the future of solar energy is sunny. While natural gas may provide a bridge fuel for the transition to a low-carbon economy, solar, wind, geothermal and other renewable resources will eventually supply the more than seven billion people that inhabit Earth with the energy they need to flourish.
The price of solar panels has dropped significantly over the past two decades due to major improvements in the technology leading to efficiency gains, as well as economies of scale as they grow in popularity.
By installing solar panels on the roof of E-House, Pace hopes to provide other institutions and individuals interested in supporting solar energy with a model for doing so. In this sense, the rooftop solar project will serve Pace’s mission of accelerating adoption of sustainable energy resources globally.
Please contact Lauren Rubenstein to speak with an Energy & Climate Center expert, or to arrange for a visit to E-House. Photos available upon request, and a live video stream of the construction is available here.
Manager, Media Relations
Pace Law School
Cell (914) 329-8680
Founded in 1976, Pace Law School has over 7,000 alumni throughout the country and the world and is consistently ranked among the nation’s top three programs in environmental law. It offers full- and part-time JD programs on its White Plains, NY, campus and offers the Master of Laws degree in Environmental Law and Comparative Legal Studies, and a Doctor of Laws in environmental law. The School of Law is part of Pace University, a comprehensive, independent, and diversified university with campuses in New York City and Westchester County. www.law.pace.edu