On-Site Power: Generating Additional Income Streams for New Yorkers

One of the best ways to fight the burdensome electricity costs associated with inefficient building systems is through on-site power generation. Though installation may be initially intimidating, three programs exist to aid New Yorkers in creating clean, independent electricity that they may profit from by selling it back to the grid. This is one of five articles in Unbuilt Labs’ Research Package “Incentive programs to help NYC building owners comply with the Climate Mobilization Act (2019)by Deven Malone.. We recommend clicking on the link above to familiarize yourself with the four pillars of what the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability calls the “largest climate solution put forth by any city in the world”.

Energy costs are often burdensome and are exacerbated by energy waste. However, they can be alleviated by on-site power generation. Not only are outside electricity costs cut, but the building owner can sell electricity back to the grid (Josephson 2018). Property owners with solar photovoltaic panels can opt to sell excess electricity in exchange for checks from power companies. NY-Sun has two incentive programs offering assistance for meeting installation costs. While solar panels are excellent for reducing electricity costs, the Retrofit Accelerator promotes them for their capacity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as well. Any buildings that use NY-Sun Programs to install photovoltaic cell systems gain the additional advertising perk; the building and/or firm is more attractive to an increasingly environmentally-concerned consumer base.

Furthermore, on-site power generation offers security and flexibility. In this instance of economic instability or weather issues, on-site power generation can make up for a disruption in the usually-reliable energy grids. Flexibility stems from the building’s possession of multiple energy sources, on-site production and the grid (“Top 5 Advantages of On-Site Power Generation” 2015). The property owner can decide how much electricity comes from which source. The building is therefore more independent and can self-regulate during periods of energy-related instability. This makes the building more valuable to both the market and prospective tenants, both commercial and residential.

Likewise, since the electricity is generated on-site, less energy is lost in transmission. While electricity transmission is efficient, energy traveling over any distance creates the opportunity for lost, especially in lower voltage systems (Wirfs-Brock 2017). The local production of energy sharply reduces any energy loss. NYSERDA’s Commercial Tenant Program covers up to 100% of the costs of an energy analysis for building; the resultant design can then be used to improve building energy efficiency. NYSERDA also offers incentives for high-performance apartment spaces.


NY-Sun Incentive Program

  • Business and building owners are eligible for incentives, as long as they work with participating contractors.
  • Small businesses can access up to $100,000 in financing at a below-market interest rate.
  • Incentives to reduce installation costs are offered on a Megawatt block basis, which assigns incentives based on the system size and incentive level at the time of submission and the size of the array
  • Learn about solar options here: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/All-Programs/Programs/NY-Sun/Solar-for-Your-Business/How-to-Go-Solar/Options

NY-Sun – Affordable Solar Predevelopment and Technical Assistance

  • Building owners representing affordable housing projects are eligible for up to $200,000 for predevelopment and technical assistance work to ensure all types of housing can reap the benefits of renewable energy. Owner-occupied houses are not eligible.
  • Independent energy generation saves money by reducing electricity costs and/or allowing the building owner to sell electricity to the grid.
  • Find the application portal here: https://nyserda.seamlessdocs.com/f/NYSun_AffordableSolar

NYSERDA Multifamily Performance Program High-Performance Component

  • Owners of affordable multifamily buildings are eligible to receive $700 to $3500 per unit to make improvements that lower a building’s operating costs.
  • A NYSERDA qualified provider will conduct an assessment on changes needed to save 15% or more on energy.
  • More money is available for higher energy savings.
  • Capital improvements, such as heating systems or other utilities, are the most common upgradesGet started by selecting a NYSERDA-qualified provider here: https://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Contractors/Find-a-Contractor/Multifamily-Building-Solutions-Network


Josephson. 2018. “How to Sell Electricity Back to the Grid.” SmartAsset. August 20, 2018. https://smartasset.com/mortgage/sell-electricity-back-grid.

“Top 5 Advantages of On-Site Power Generation.” 2015. September 25, 2015. https://polarisengr.com/engineering/5-reasons-consider-on-site-power-generation/.

Wirfs-Brock, Jordan. 2017. “Lost In Transmission.” Blackout: Reinventing the Grid. 2017. https://grid.insideenergy.org/lost-in-transmission.

Browse the research package “Incentive programs to help NYC building owners comply with the Climate Mobilization Act (2019)” by Deven Malone:

About the Author


Deven Malone, Summer Policy Analyst

Deven has long been interested in communicating for influence. He recognized the importance of social discourse for project momentum during his time as an Associate at Partnership International. There he has researched regulatory landscapes and written project proposals as well as grant applications on behalf of US bilateral and multilateral aid agencies. His focus has been on solar energy, water purification, and hydroelectric fields. At Unbuilt Labs, he is exploring behaviour change communication strategies in housing codes and climate-oriented legislation. Deven is also a beekeeper and a Board Member at Georgetown University’s Hoya Hive.

  • Georgetown University, B.S.F.S. Science, Technology, and International Affairs ‘22