The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) has approved 565 applications and has paid grants for 490 solar water heater installations since the start of the solar thermal support scheme in January 2011. The chart shows the programme’s monthly application activity. December 2013 was an exception, because “there was one large project, consisting of 28 applications for a complex that is part of the 50+ applications in this particular month,” Marci Brunner explained. The Associate Project Manager at NYSERDA gave an update on the programme during the January conference call of the Solar Heating and Cooling Alliance, a division of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Kevin Virkler, who lives on a ranch in Lowville, a rural community in the north of New York State, is presented on the programme´s web pages as one of its beneficiaries. In combination with the federal tax credits of 35 %, he got back nearly half of the system costs for his solar thermal system consisting of three rooftop collectors, a tank, a pumping station and a metering system. The incentive for all systems is 1.50 USD per displaced kWh of electricity in the first year, capped at USD 4,000 per residential system and USD 25,000 for non-residential systems. A beneficiary of the latter - and also presented on the NYSERDA website - has been the brewery Cooper’s Cave Ale of Adrian Bethel, with a restaurant in Glens Falls in the east of New York State. Bethel’s brewery requires 80,000 US gallons (302,833 litres) of water at 150 °F (48 °C) each year for the cleaning of the boiling pots, the fermenters and the bottling system. The restaurant needs 200,000 US gallons (757,082 litres) at the same temperature annually – partly for the dish washer, which runs 11 hours a day. The enterprise received USD 25,000 from NYSERDA funding, an amount that covered more than 50 % of the equipment and installation costs. “The additional federal tax credits also helped to make the project affordable,” Bethel is quoted in the online project presentation. The collector field, which is connected to a 325-gallon water tank (1,320 litres), saves him between USD 100 and 200 in electricity costs per month.
Despite the success stories and the high incentive level, the programme has fallen short of expectations. At the start of the programme, NYSERDA’s aim was to help replace 13,000 electric water heaters by solar systems until December 2015 – now, a goal far out of reach. The 2013 budget of USD 4.3 million was not exhausted: Only 64 % (USD 2.74 million) were spent, according to Brunner. The funds come from the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which was introduced in the state of New York in 2005. The RPS requires utilities to produce a certain amount of their electricity based on renewable energy sources.