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Construction & DesignGreen Building

City speeds up solar installation approval process

They city has launched a new program to speed up the approval process for solar installation projects.

Buildings Commissioner Rick Chandler said that starting January 1, most small-scale solar panel installation projects will be eligible for Professional Certification, rather than requiring approval from a Department plan examiner.

Professional Certification allows Registered Architects and Professional Engineers to certify against their licenses that plans submitted to the Department are in full compliance with all applicable regulations in the New York City Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution.


“Applications for the installation of solar panels have skyrocketed since the beginning of Mayor de Blasio’s administration, and that’s a great thing for our City’s environment. We’re acting to meet this demand and encourage even more investment in sustainable energy,” said Commissioner Chandler.

A key part of the Department’s Building One City plan is to simplify the permitting process for low-risk applications, such as those for solar panel installations, and ensure that Department resources are efficiently allocated toward more complex projects. Professional Certification of qualifying solar panel installations will eliminate wait times and reduce costs, helping incentivize homeowners to invest in renewable energy technology and further the Mayor’s OneNYC sustainability plan.

“Speeding the approval of simpler, low-risk projects is a significant priority for the Department. This model will make green-energy projects more affordable, encourage development, and uphold safe construction practices,” Chandler added.

To qualify for the program, solar photovoltaic panels must: Produce a maximum of 10 kilowatts of power; Be installed on one or two family homes; and be installed on pitched roofs with equal to or less than a twenty degree slope.

Under Mayor de Blasio’s OneNYC sustainability plan, the administration and the Department of Buildings are committed to spurring the growth of solar energy in New York City in both public and private buildings, as the City works toward the Mayor’s goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

The City has committed to installing 100 megawatts (MW) of solar power on public buildings and spurring the installation of 250 MW on private buildings by 2025.


“We’ve found that one of the biggest obstacles to expanding solar energy in New York City has been how complicated it’s been to get solar panel installations approved,” said Nilda Mesa, director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.

“This takes away a sizeable hurdle, and will lead to homeowners and residents being able to save money and use clean energy sooner than ever before. Hats off to Commissioner Chandler and his team.”

Since the beginning of Mayor de Blasio’s administration, solar panel installation projects have more than doubled throughout the city. Applications to install solar photovoltaic panels have increased from approximately 60 jobs to over 1,200 filings, a change of more than 1000 percent, since 2012. Seventy percent of these applications are for low-risk projects.

Projects eligible for Professional Certification under the risk-based review model will be subject to an enhanced auditing structure to ensure compliance with the New York City Construction Codes and Zoning Resolution.

“Solar energy is one way to help drastically reduce our carbon footprint, so any step our City takes to facilitate the installation of solar panels is a great step forward,” said Queens Borough President Melinda Katz.

“Red tape should not stand in the way of harnessing the power of the sun. This excellent new initiative announced by Commissioner Chandler will encourage the use of solar energy by easing the permitting process for installing solar panels.”

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