New York Dairies Encouraged to Apply for Solar Thermal Incentive Program

11:53AM Apr 13, 2011
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State ag commissioner touts program that offers up to $25,000 to convert hot water from electric to solar.

Source: New York State Department of Agriculture and Markets news release

New York State Agriculture Commissioner Darrel J. Aubertine today encouraged agricultural producers and businesses that use electricity to produce hot water to consider applying for the state’s first incentive program for solar thermal systems. 

Offered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), this program will provide $25 million over the next five years to promote the production of hot water from solar power.  

“Many agricultural operations require the use of hot water, and in some cases, use a lot of it,” Aubertine said. “As farmers and homeowners alike know too well, electric hot water heaters are not cheap to operate. NYSERDA has offered a nice incentive to install solar thermal hot water systems that can significantly reduce the heating requirements of the electric water heating appliance by preheating water. Farmers should take a moment to look into this opportunity that could result in significant savings in their electric bill.”

The five-year, $25 million program provides incentives of up to $4,000 per site for eligible residential customers and up to $25,000 per site for eligible commercial and non-profit customers who currently use electricity to produce hot water. Farms and agricultural businesses which use electricity to produce hot water are eligible to participate in this program.

“New York’s first solar thermal incentive program will help agricultural operations, a critical segment of our economy, reduce their use of electricity from the grid and cut energy costs,” said Francis J. Murray Jr., President and CEO of NYSERDA. “Through this program, NYSERDA is working to develop our clean energy economy, reduce our greenhouse gas emissions and increase our energy security.” 

Dairy farms use a significant amount of hot water – roughly two to two and half gallons per cow per day – in order to properly clean milking equipment. The hot water required for proper sanitation and equipment wash must be between 160° and 170°F, which is 20° to 30° degrees hotter than residential uses. While most medium to large dairies and other agricultural operations do not use electricity to meet their water heating needs, smaller dairies under 100 cows and small businesses usually do.

If solar thermal technology is installed before Dec. 31, 2012, agricultural operations are eligible to receive federal tax incentives in the form of a grant which will cover 30% of the installed costs, as well as, New York State incentives which will cover 25% of the installed system up to $5,000. When federal and state tax incentives are combined with this newly released NYSERDA program, incentives are expected to cover 70-75% of installed costs.

Incentives will be available only on approved solar thermal systems installed by NYSERDA-approved solar thermal installers. They will be granted first-come, first served, and applications will be accepted through Dec. 31, 2015, or until the funds are fully committed, whichever comes first.   For more information on this program, visit NYSERDA's Solar Thermal Incentive Program webpage.

Funding for this program has been allocated by the New York State Public Service Commission through the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) Program. Incentives are available to electricity distribution customers of Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corporation, Consolidated Edison Company of New York Inc., New York State Electric & Gas Corporation, Niagara Mohawk Power Corporation, Orange and Rockland Utilities Inc. and Rochester Gas and Electric Corporation.

Electric hot water generally makes up 17% to 20% of a homeowner’s monthly electric bill and less than 10% of the monthly bill for the average commercial building. Solar thermal systems can provide approximately 50% to 80% of a homeowner’s hot water needs and generally have a very attractive payback period. As part of New York’s renewable energy goals, the state’s solar thermal target is to displace the equivalent of 45.54 megawatts of electrical use by the end of 2015.