All of us are feeling the impact of COVID-19 across New York and, indeed, the entire country. Like many other industries, the solar industry will feel the effects of the virus, so it’s important for developers, workers, consumers, and everyone involved to stay informed. A recent newsletter from NYSEIA offered some excellent information on the impact of COVID-19 on the New York Solar Market—and the resources available—so we’ve shared some of the key points below.
Federal Action in Response to COVID-19
The federal government has responded with a number of wide-ranging provisions to alleviate the impact of COVID-19, some of which are relevant to the solar industry.
Essential Critical Infrastructure: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has issued guidance on Essential Critical Infrastructure. Information relevant to the solar industry can be found on page 7 of this document.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act: This Act provides additional paid sick leave, free COVID-19 testing, expanded food assistance, unemployment benefits, and more. Notably, provisions for workers and small businesses also feature in the Act. These provisions are further detailed here.
Small Business Disaster Loans: To lessen the economic impact of COVID-19, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has extended disaster relief loans to small businesses. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan program will offer loans of up to $2 million. Full details of loan availability, interest rates, and more, are available here.
Federal Investment Tax Credit: SEIA, NYSEIA, and other affiliates across the country are lobbying congress with regards to the federal Investment Tax Credit. Full details of the SEIA’s suggested actions are available in this recent NYSEIA newsletter.
The Impact of COVID-19 on New York Solar
Unsurprisingly, COVID-19 is impacting the New York solar industry in a number of ways, delaying installations and interconnections, while potentially restricting the solar workforce.
Permitting & Municipal Engagement: Building departments in some locations may be closed, while inspections are likely being delayed across the state. Additionally, permit issuance, public hearings, and board meetings are being suspended. Executive Orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo have authorized public meetings to be held via teleconference, and notational acts to be performed via technology. NYSEIA is advocating that contractors be allowed to install pre-inspection.
Interconnection: Utilities continue to work on interconnection applications remotely. Utility field work seems to be proceeding as normal, though it may have slowed to some extent. NYSEIA believes a temporary hold on 75 percent payment deadlines is necessary and is engaging with both the Department of Public Service (DPS) and the Public Service Commission (PSC) on this matter. This could be for all projects, or on a project-by-project basis.
MW-Block Program: NYSEIA believes that extensions are necessary for project completion timelines for MW-Block program eligibility. This applies to both residential and non-residential segments and NYSEIA is engaging with NYSERDA on this matter.
Workforce Restrictions: Another Executive Order from Governor Cuomo requires that the workforce of nonessential businesses remain at home. Under this Executive Order, warehouse/distribution and construction are listed as essential. NYSEIA is seeking clarification on whether solar work falls under this construction sector exemption.
How Solar Industry Members Can Help
As a member of the solar industry, you can contribute your expertise and personal experiences to help SEIA understand and alleviate the impact of COVID-19.
Industry Letter: You can add your company to an industry letter to congress by filling out this form. Your support could help save jobs and keep the industry growing in this difficult time.
Survey: NYSEIA & SEIA are requesting that members fill out this survey to help track the impact of COVID-19 on the solar industry. You don’t need to be a SEIA member to complete the survey. Additionally, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to offer further information about the difficulties you are facing.
If you want more information about solar energy, contact YSG Solar today. YSG has been operating in the solar industry for over a decade and is vastly experienced with all kinds of solar projects. Send us an email, or call at 212.389.9215 to learn more.
By Shane Croghan