The PV Trainers Network (PVTN) concluded its activities in Dec 2017 and is no longer providing trainings or technical assistance to local governments on solar PV. Local governments and other stakeholders should contact NYSERDA’s NY-Sun Program at solarhelp@nyserda.ny.gov with any training, technical assistance requests or general inquiries. The NY-Sun Program will continue to help local governments develop solar in their communities. For more information visit: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/SolarGuidebook

FAQs

Major electric generating facilities larger than 25 MW are sited according to New York State’s Article 10 law. There are no solar projects in New York State that meet that meet the 25 MW size threshold and trigger Article 10.

The Power NY Act of 2011 established a process for the siting of electric generating facilities and repowering projects. As part of the process, a multi-agency Siting Board is charged with streamlining the permitting process for power plants of 25 megawatts (MW) or greater. The Power NY Act also encourages investments in clean power plants and affords communities more opportunities to participate in the siting process.

"Article 10" was enacted in 2011 to be a portion of the New York State Public Service Law. It is a general state law that is applicable in all of New York State. Article 10 empowers the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment to issue Certificates of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need authorizing the construction and operation of major electric generating facilities.

A previous version of such a law expired on January 1, 2003. Key provisions of the new law include:

  1. Defines a major electric generating facility as facilities of 25 megawatts or more;
  2. Requires environmental and public health impact analyses, studies regarding environmental justice and public safety, and consideration of local laws;
  3. Directs applicants to provide funding for both the pre-application and application phases. It allows funding to be used to help intervenors (affected municipalities and other parties) hire experts to participate in the review of the application and for legal fees (but not for judicial challenges);
  4. Requires a utility security plan reviewed by Homeland Security and, for New York City (NYC) plants, NYC's emergency management office;
  5. Provides for appointment of ad hoc public members of the Siting Board from the municipality where the facility is proposed to be sited; and,
  6. Requires a public information coordinator within the Department of Public Service to assist and advise interested parties and members of the public in participating in the siting process.

More information on the Power NY and Article 10 is available:

Below are some resources that provide some helpful information.

Understanding Solar Installations in Agricultural Districts: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/medi a/NYSun/files/understanding-solar-installations-in-ag-fs.pdf

Agricultural Districts Website: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/agdistricts.html

Guideline for Review of Local Zoning and Planning Laws: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/guidancedocuments/305-aZoningGuidelines.pdf

Guideline for Review of Local Laws Affecting Small Wind Energy Production Facilities and Solar Devices: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/ap/agservices/guidancedocuments/Guidelines_for_Solar_and_Small_Wind_Energy_Facilities.pdf

Landowner Considerations for Solar Land Leases: http://www.agriculture.ny.gov/FactSheet/Solar_Land_Leases.pdf

Homenick, E. Sullivan County Real Property Tax Services, "Solar Array's and Taxation": https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/12866/SOLAR_ARRAY%E2%80%99S.pdf?1452808160https://s3.amazonaws.com/assets.cce.cornell.edu/attachments/12866/SOLAR_ARRAY%E2%80%99S.pdf?1452808160

Please see the factsheet Understanding Solar Installations in Agricultural Districts: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/NYSun/files/understanding-solar-installations-in-ag-fs.pdf included in the Solar Guidebook for Local Governments: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/SolarGuidebook.

 Other Useful Resources:

  • Agricultural Districts Website
  • Guideline for Review of Local Zoning and Planning Laws
  • Guideline for Review of Local Laws Affecting Small Wind Energy Production Facilities and Solar Devices
  • Agricultural Assessment Information
  • Agricultural Assessment Overview and Conversion Penalties

The Assessor has a few options of how they can assess the value and the system and it is up to the Assessor to determine the most appropriate methodology. We’ve outlined the main approaches.

Methodologies for assessing value of solar include:

  • Comparable sales/market approach: assessor compares the market value or sale price of similar properties located within the same jurisdiction to measure the property value added due to a solar PV system.
  • Cost approach: the value of a solar PV is measured based on the systems cost or the cost to replace it.
  • Income approach: value of solar based on current and projected revenue from power generation.

Helpful Resources

As relates to the RPTL § 487 exemption, a PILOT agreement cannot operate for a period of more than 15 years. This is expressly stated in § 487(9)(b).  The law clearly sets a 15-year limit on PILOT agreements because the exemption itself cannot last more than 15 years.  It would be impossible to justify structuring a PILOT agreement so that it would purport to remain in effect after the property to which it applies has become taxable.

Note that RPTL § 487(9)(a) does not obligate an owner or developer to provide written notice of its intent to construct a solar or wind energy system. The owner or developer may choose to provide written notice for the purpose of determining whether they will be required to enter into a PILOT agreement. If an owner or developer chooses to provide written notice of its intent, the law requires the owner or developer to provide such notice to each taxing jurisdiction it is seeking a determination from. In other words, if an owner/developer provides written notice to the town within which it intends to develop, but does not provide written notice to the county or school district, the owner/developer cannot claim that the county or school district was required to notify the owner/developer of its intent to require a PILOT agreement within 60 days of receiving the written notification; since written notification was not provided to the county or school district, neither would be under any such obligation.

Real Property Tax Law (“RPTL”) § 487(9)(a) states that if an owner or developer provides written notice to a taxing jurisdiction of its intent to construct a solar or wind energy system, then the taxing jurisdiction must notify the owner or developer of its intent to require a PILOT agreement within 60 days of receiving the written notification.  This is only pertinent where an owner or developer has given the taxing jurisdiction notice of its intent to construct.  According to the statute, the taxing jurisdiction would have to send an individualized notice directly to the owner or developer.  A general posting or publication by a taxing jurisdiction of its intent to require PILOT agreements does not satisfy the requirements of § 487(9)(a). 

That said, it should be understood that if an owner or developer has not given the taxing jurisdiction notice of intent to construct, the taxing jurisdiction is under no obligation to notify that owner or developer of its intent to require a PILOT.  Under this scenario, the taxing jurisdiction would be free to require a PILOT without prior notice. 

It is also important to note that there is nothing in the law that requires a taxing jurisdiction to “negotiate” PILOTs; it has the power to impose them unilaterally, subject only to the constraints set forth in the law.

If the town does not opt out of the RPTL 487 they can require a PILOT for large scale solar installations and not require a PILOT for homeowners, small business and farmers. They are not required to have a PILOT for all types of systems. PILOTS are usually only applies to installations in the MW range. Most jurisdictions that maintain the exemption only require a PILOT for solar installations once they get into the MW range. Any other type of installation – homeowner, small business etc are not required to have a PILOT.

No. See the below answer from NY Department of Taxation and Finance on this question:

Q: May a municipal opt out of the exemption for commercial property while leaving it in place for residential property?

A: No. If a municipality does opt out – i.e., if it adopts a local law disallowing the exemption – it must do so for all properties. It cannot allow the exemption for one type of property while disallowing it for another, because § 487(8) states that once a municipality has opted out, “no exemption under this section shall be applicable within its jurisdiction” (emphasis added). If a municipality does not opt out, however, the law may allow it to treat commercial and residential properties differently when deciding what their PILOT obligations should be.

https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/legal/raq2.pdf?_ga=1.225179802.1031257166.1423842465

The legislation does, however, allow jurisdictions to require a Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILOT).

The purpose of a PILOT is to reduce the tax burden on the property and/or system owner, while preserving some of the forgone revenue that would have been paid in property taxes. PILOTs are usually used for large-scale (1MW+) renewable energy projects including solar PV and are annual payments related to the systems nameplate capacity ($/MW).

The PILOT may not exceed a 15-year term, and it may not exceed the value of taxes that would be paid without the exemption provided by RPTL § 487.

While there is little data on typical PILOTs for solar PV projects across New York, the NY Solar Energy Industries Association (NYSEIA) conducted a brief evaluation of wind projects in NY and found PILOTs have amounted to annual payments of $8,000-9,000/MW based on the system’s nameplate capacity. An analysis in Massachusetts found PILOT amounts ranging from $5,000/MW to $27,000/MW.

If a municipality opts out of RPTL § 487 to generate tax revenue from these larger projects, there will likely be unintended consequences for the local residential and commercial solar market. PILOT agreements are an effective tool for jurisdictions to generate tax revenue from large projects without making solar costs prohibitive for most homeowners and business owners.

Useful Resources:

Yes, solar PV systems are considered real property if installed on homes, businesses, or commercial solar farms under RPTL §487.

Residential solar

According to a recent study conducted by U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), home buyers have been willing to pay more for homes that have solar PV systems owned by the homeowner. Nonetheless, the study found no evidence that shows that home buyers are willing to pay more or less for homes with third-party owned solar PV systems.

A previous study, also by LBNL, found that there is only a small and statistically non-significant difference between PV premiums for new and existing homes.

Utility scale solar

It is important to note that New York State does not currently have what are generally considered as ‘utility scale’ solar projects nor does it have utility ownership of solar. Since there is limited research on the impact of utility scale solar projects on property values, one option is to look at the impact of large-scale wind projects on property values. The existing research examining the property values of residential homes located near or with views of wind turbines provides little or no evidence that home values are affected (positively or negatively) before or after the construction of facilities.

  • This website houses many of the studies on wind projects and property valueshttp://www.realtor.org/field-guides/field-guide-to-wind-farms-their-effect-on-property-values
  • A study conducted by Hoen et al in 2013, analyzed data from more than 50,000 home sales across 27 (mostly rural) counties in nine states including seven counties in New York that were within 10 miles of wind facilities. The study found no statistically significant evidence that home prices near wind turbines were affected in post-announcement, pre-construction or post-construction periods. The study concluded that if effects do exist, the average impacts are relatively small and/or sporadic impacting only a very small subset of homes. 
    • Hoen, B., Wiser, R., & Cappers, P. (2013). A Spatial Hedonic Analysis of the Effects of Wind Energy Facilities on Surrounding Property Values in the United States. Berkeley: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Retrieved from https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6362e.pdf
  • A similar 2014 study examined 122,000 homes sales near 41 turbines located in more densely populated areas in Massachusetts within 5 miles of the wind facilities. The study concluded that there were no net effects on property values due to wind turbines and only weak evidence that the announcement of a wind facility had a modest adverse impact on home prices that were no longer apparent after turbine construction and operation commenced (Hoen & Atkinson-Palombo, 2014).
    • Hoen, B., & Atkinson-Palombo, C. (2014). Relationship between Wind Trubines and Residential Property Values in Massachusetts. Berkeley: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; University of Connecticut. Retrieved from https://emp.lbl.gov/sites/all/files/lbnl-6371e_0.pdf

It is also important to note that solar farms do not have the same impacts as wind farms (i.e., PV facilities do not cast a shadow on neighboring properties, cause light flicker, or have the same visual impact as wind farms). Communities can opt for mitigation measures to reduce visual impacts of solar farms through the use of setbacks, vegetative screening or fencing.

Finally, there are some misconceptions related to the impacts of solar projects. Often people are concerned about glare, noise, or electro-magnetic fields and research and experience has shown that these are not issues associated with solar PV development. This resource summarizes a few reasons why these concerns are misleading: https://www.nrel.gov/tech_deployment/state_local_governments/blog/top-five-large-scale-solar-myths

Please see the factsheet on decommissioning solar PV systems: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/NYSun/files/Decommissioning-Solar-Systems.pdf included in the Solar Guidebook for Local Governments: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/SolarGuidebook

There are several helpful tools including:

The NY Solar Map offers a substantial degree of sophistication while still retaining a user-friendly interface and simplicity.

Additional tools are a bit more technical in nature but may be able to offer more sophisticated estimates. A few are listed below:

An offtaker is simply the purchaser of the power that a solar system produces. In many solar projects, there is an underlying agreement that defines who is responsible for purchasing and paying for the power that is produced by the solar system. This underlying agreement is usually a power purchase agreement (PPA). In a PPA, a solar purchaser or offtaker buys power from a project developer at a pre-determined rate for a specified term without taking ownership of the system. The project developer procures, builds, operates, and maintains the system. The solar system may be physically located on the offtaker’s premises (onsite PPA or the system can be located offsite from the offtaker (offsite PPA). In either case, a PPA is a financial mechanism that allows the offtaker to accrue many of the benefits of solar power without owning a system.

Offtaker in a shared solar project:

In the case of a shared solar project, the solar project is usually not located on the offtakers property (offsite project). The offtaker, commonly referred to as a subscriber, is a community member who purchases a share of a community shared solar project. This share is made up of the power generated by the solar PV system. So, the subscriber is actually purchasing a portion of the kwh output of the solar system. They can then use this portion of the system to offset their electricity usage from the electric grid. Ideally, a developer would have the shared solar array fully subscribed, meaning that all of the power produced by the array is being purchased by members of the community. If that is not the case, however, the liability typically falls on the developer as opposed to the landowner. Since the solar developer is the primary beneficiary of the array in terms of profits, the solar developer is typically the one responsible for ensuring subscriptions to the array and dealing with the financial consequences of an under-subscribed array.

No. If a municipality opts out of the exemption it can’t utilize a PILOT.; The PILOT option is only available to municipalities that have not opted out of the exemption. If a municipality wanted to enter into a PILOT, it would have to restore the RPTL§487 exemption. In order to do so, the jurisdiction would have to repeal the local law, ordinance or resolution to opt out. A copy of any local law, ordinance or resolution restoring the exemption should be filed with both the Department of Taxation and Finance and NYSERDA.

For more information on PILOTs please refer to this brief document developed by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance:https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/legal/raq2.pdf

RPTL §844 requires that counties apportion county taxes among cities and towns within the county based upon the full valuation in each city and town. For example, if a county has four towns located within its boundaries, and if the full value of all real property within those four towns is exactly the same amount (and also assuming the equalization rate in each town is the same), each town would be responsible for paying 25% of the total tax levied by the county. Real property within each town is then taxed based upon its taxable assessed value in an amount that will levy the town’s proportionate share of the county tax burden. RPTL §1314 requires that school districts engage in the same apportionment process in calculating school district taxes.

In calculating the full value of real property for apportionment purposes, counties and school districts have the option of disregarding exemptions that partially exempt the value of real property from taxation, including the RPTL §487 exemption. If a county or school district chooses to disregard the RPTL §487 exemption for apportionment purposes, that means the value of the exemption would be added back onto the tax roll. In a county or school district where some municipalities have opted out of the RPTL §487 exemption, but at least one municipality has not, this could have the effect of shifting some of the county or school district tax burden onto the municipality that allows the RPTL §487 exemption. However, as of the date of this publication we are not aware of any examples of this occurring, and even in this hypothetical scenario the added tax on properties without solar energy systems would be negligible.

Below is a list of useful resources that explain the various aspects of the real property tax exemptions applicable to solar energy systems:

§ 844. Use of county equalization rates. 1. In any county to which this title is applicable, county taxes shall be apportioned among the cities and towns within the county on the basis of the proportion of the total full valuation of taxable real property within the county which is located within each city and town. This total valuation shall be determined by dividing the taxable assessed value of taxable real property by the appropriate city or town equalization rate as certified by the commissioner pursuant to this title. For purposes of this section: (a) "taxable real property" excludes real property which, by statute, is wholly exempt from county taxation, (b) "taxable assessed value" is limited to the assessed value actually subject to county taxation except that it also includes the amount of assessed value partially exempt from county taxation pursuant to (i) sections four hundred fifty-eight, four hundred sixty and four hundred sixty-four of this chapter, and (ii) such other sections of law as the county legislature designates by resolution to be included in the total valuation.

  • NYS Department of Taxation and Finance: About Property Taxes and Assessments (video clip)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72QuLo5Q9MY

Property Tax and Solar Energy Systems: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pdf/publications/orpts/legal/raq2.pdf?_ga=1.225179802.1031257166.1423842465

North Carolina Solar Center and Meister Consultants Group: Property Taxes and Solar PV Systems: Policies, Practices, and Issues: https://nccleantech.ncsu.edu/wp-content/uploads/Property-Taxes-and-Solar-PV-Systems-2013.pdf

NYS Energy Research and Development Authority: Guidelines for Property Tax Exemptions: http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/-/media/Files/EERP/Renewables/Definitions-guidelines-real-property-tax-exemption-renewable-energy-systems.pdf

NYS Department of Taxation and Finance: Equalization rates: https://www.tax.ny.gov/pit/property/learn/eqrates.htm#schooltax

NYS Department of Taxation and Finance:  Alternative Tax Apportionment - Designated Large Property: https://www.tax.ny.gov/research/property/assess/alt_tax_appt_3.htm

The Real Property Tax Law – Section 487 (RPTL – §487) states that real property that contains a solar, wind, or farm waste energy system “is exempt from taxation for a period of 15 years to the extent of any increase in assessed value due to the system.” This law is structured to be automatically applicable to all taxing jurisdictions (county, city, town, village and school district) unless they choose to opt out.

A taxing jurisdiction that does not opt out of RPTL-§487: A taxing jurisdiction that keeps this exemption in place will not increase the taxable assessed value of real property due to the installation of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. The real property tax exemption should not impact the taxes of properties located within the same taxing jurisdiction.

A taxing jurisdiction that opts out of RPTL-§487: If a taxing jurisdiction chooses to opt out of the exemption, the real property tax on the property where the solar PV system is installed may increase to reflect the value added by the system. This should only increase the taxes of the property owner where the solar PV system is installed and if it impacts the taxes of other properties in the same taxing jurisdiction at all, it should result in a slight decrease in tax.

For a detailed explanation of how real property tax exemptions apply to solar energy systems, you may refer to this brief document developed by the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance: Recently Asked Questions About the Real Property Tax Law on the Topic of Solar Energy Systems.

 

The fire code requirements for PV arrays on residential buildings are addressed in the ​NY State Uniform Code Supplement, which includes amendments to the 2015 International Residential Code, Section R324.7.

The number of access pathways and their locations depends on the type of roof, and whether the AHJ or local fire officials have granted an exception. Without any exceptions, PV arrays installed on single ridge roofs require two 3-foot-wide access pathways extending from the roof access point to the ridge. Access pathways on opposing roof slopes shall not be located along the same plane as the truss, rafter, or other such framing system that supports the pathway. Hip roofs require one 3-foot-wide clear access pathway extending from the roof access point to the ridge, on each roof slope where modules are located. Modules may not be located closer than 18 inches to valleys if present.

Exceptions may be granted by the AHJ to permit access pathways on another roof surface an access roof fronts a street, driveway or other ready accessible area to emergency responders. These exceptions do not reduce the total number of pathways required for PV arrays on single ridge or hip roofs, only their locations. See definitions for ACCESS ROOF, GROUND ACCESS AREA, and ROOF ACCESS POINT in Section R202. An access roof may also contain solar panels that do not exceed 33% of the ridge length, and are otherwise clear of vents, skylights or other obstructions. The access roof can contain more than one access pathway as required, which may suffice for arrays located on more than one other roof surface. The main condition is that an access roof must provide access to the ridge of an adjoining roof surface containing solar panels.

Section R324.7.7 provides requirements for smoke ventilation operations. No parts of an array may be located closer than 18 inches to a roof ridge or peak. Exceptions are permitted for detached, non-habitable structures and where the AHJ and fire officials have determined that alternate ventilation methods have been provided, or vertical ventilation will not be employed. This exception may permit, for example, ventilation areas to be moved to the opposing roof slope, access roof or eliminated altogether if the AHJ approves. As always, diagram your intended layout and seek approval from the local AHJ before beginning construction as local requirements and firefighting practices vary.

"If the building I am working on is 158’ x 158’, do I need centerline axis pathways? Per 605.11.1.3.1. – Exception for 4’ perimeter – my array would be 150’ x 150’.

What I’m trying to figure out, is there’s a point when dividing an array on small commercial projects into 4 quadrants for centerline axis pathways and smoke ventilation that you end up with 4 very small, very heavy arrays…

Is 150’ also the cut-off for centerline axis pathways as it is for smoke ventilation? Can we use only 1, the X or Y pathway? The loss of panels and additional weight of the system is my challenge."

In general the requirements for access and ventilation can be found in a few locations. 2015 The International Building Code, (IBC) for commercial building

If it’s residential you start with the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC), you may also want to look at the 2015 International Fire Code (IFC).

The next step is to look for New York State specific modifications.  These will change or modify sections of the International Series.

If the project is located in New York City, you also have to look at the NYC Fire Code for access requirements.

Finally as New York State is a “home rule” state, the final decision to determine if a project is in compliance rests with the local code official.

The dialog with the local code official cannot start too early in the process. Solar developers should work with their design professionals to prepare a layout that they believe is in compliance, and cite relevant code sections. Then be prepared to answer any of the code official’s questions. As fires can start at any place the interior attic or occupied spaces, and partition walls, along with the direction of the prevailing wind may be factors that the code official will consider.

At least one directory is required when a building is served by a utility and a photovoltaic source. The location of the directory is recommended to be at the Electrical Service Entrance as the Directory is intended to: 1) Inform that a solar electric system serves the building, 2) the location of the dc Disconnect Switch(es), and 3) the location of the ac Disconnect Switch(es).

In terms of temperature corrections for circuits other than rooftop conductors/cables exposed to direct sunlight, nothing exempts having to apply appropriate temperature corrections for any other circuits in other locations. While you don't have ambient temperature adders to use from 310.15(B)(2)(a), you would still need to estimate the maximum circuit temperatures and apply the appropriate temperature correction factors. If there is no adjustment for more than three conductors and your temperature correction factor is less greater than 0.8, you would use 690.8(B)(1) to determine the minimum conductor ampacity.

Recent versions of the International Building Code (IBC) are adopted by all US states and territories. Chapter 16 of the IBC addresses structural requirements for PV array installations. Structural loads on PV arrays are evaluated by ASCE7-10 Minimum Design Loads for Buildings and Other Structures.

The National Electrical Code (NFPA70, NEC) is referenced by the IBC Chapter 27, and addresses electrical installation requirements for PV systems. Notable changes for PV systems from the 2011 to 2014 editions of the NEC include the addition of rapid shutdown requirements for PV arrays in 690.12, and clarification of interconnection options in 705.12. Grounding requirements in 690 Part V were also clarified.

Requirements for PV array locations on rooftops, including access pathways and ventilation areas are addressed by the International Fire Code, Section 605.11. Further details of the specific code changes and impact on installations and the permitting process can be found in industry publications.