By Mirela Niculae

Across the United States, solar energy is exponentially growing in popularity as both homeowners and companies become more interested in using clean energy. However, the rate of adoption varies greatly from state to state. California usually receives a lot of hype for being the state with the highest rate of solar adoption in the country, but that doesn’t mean the solar industry is only an option on the West Coast.

A number of East Coast cities are seeing exponential growth in solar technology – many of them located in New York state, which offers additional tax benefits on top of the federal solar tax credit.

SolarStory has aggregated and analyzed thousands of data points pertaining to residential solar energy across the U.S., from average installation costs to the number of installations in each city. According to this data, here are top five cities on the East Coast by solar adoption rate.

The New York State Legislature building in Albany, N.Y.
Albany, New York, has the highest rate of solar energy adoption on the East Coast (Credit: Harold Stiver/Shutterstock)

#1. Albany, NY (2.5% solar adoption)

The residents of Albany interested in going solar benefit from strong government support and financial incentives. In addition to the 30-percent tax incentive offered by the federal government, New York offers a tax credit that can reduce the state tax payment with up to $5,000 or 25 percent off solar energy expenses.

Besides this, Albany also benefits from the New Work net metering policy, which allows solar system owners to use the national grid as an energy bank (they can send solar energy into the grid when they have too much, and draw energy from the grid when the solar energy is low).

The New York City skyline on a sunny day
New York City has a lot of potential for solar energy (Credit: dibrova)

#2. New York City, NY (0.8% solar adoption)

New York City has a lot of potential for solar, especially in the residential areas. And, just like in Albany, the net metering policy works to help homeowners who have solar panels but don’t use batteries to store it.

Another incentive that works for the entire state is the NY-Sun Initiative, a bigger program that comes with several support mechanisms for solar power. One of these mechanisms is the Megawatt Block Inventive Structure that provides upfront rebates (dollars per watt) for both residential and commercial solar systems.

View of Syracuse, N.Y., in summer
The “Solarize” campaign sparked a wave of solar energy adoption in Syracuse, NY (Credit: debra millet/Shutterstock)

#3. Syracuse, NY (0.7% solar adoption)

In Syracuse, the wave of solar adoption started in between 2014 to 2016, when the Central New York region took part in a “Solarize” campaign led by Chris Carrick of the Central New York (CNY) Regional Planning Board.

Kevin Nickels, the Vice President of Nickels Energy Solutions, LLC praises the Solarize CNY campaign as the primary catalyst for Syracuse’s push toward solar. “I know for a fact that the Solarize CNY campaign resulted in a jolt of solar installs and activity,” he said. “The more people see it, the more they become interested in it. The more people that have solar, the more they talk about it with neighbors, coworkers, friends, family, etc. Solarize provided that initial base of homeowners, which eased the concerns of prospective buyers.”

According to Nickels, the constant drop in the price of solar systems is also boosting interest in solar in the area.

View of Rochester, N.Y
The cost of solar panels in Rochester, N.Y., are often lower than they are in other parts of the state (Credit: TarnPisessith/Shutterstock)

#4. Rochester, NY (0.5% solar adoption)

The same initiatives that primed the state of New York for a solar boom attract a series of commercial solar farms in (and around) Rochester. According to local sources, several companies have solar projects in play in this area, and the collected energy will be directed towards the local energy grid.

Furthermore, Rochester residents benefit from low prices on solar panels that even compete with the rest of New York state (where prices have dropped by over 64 percent in the last five years).

The Inner Harbor in Baltimore, Maryland
Baltimore residents benefit from Maryland’s promotion of solar energy as a mainstream resource (Credit: Stefan Ugljevarevic/Shutterstock)

#5. Baltimore, MD (0.4% solar adoption)

Maryland is also oriented towards promoting solar energy as a mainstream resource, which explains how Baltimore became the fifth city on this list. Due to incentives promoted by local authorities, solar panels are affordable for most homeowners. For instance, the state-funded Residential Clean Energy Grant guarantees a $1,000 payment to homeowners who install a system smaller than 20kW.

There is also the Property Tax Exemption for Solar and Wind Energy Systems, where homeowners don’t have to pay extra taxes for the increased home value brought on by a solar system. This coupled with the Sales and Use Tax Exemption for Renewable Energy Equipment that removes the sales tax when you purchase a new solar energy system, significantly lowers the total cost of the installation.

Finally, Maryland’s goal is to have renewable resources provide 20 percent of the state’s electricity by 2022, which is why people who install solar panels get paid in Maryland Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SREC) for each megawatt hour (mWh) produced by the panels. These certificates can be sold in the market, and their price is at about $150 and higher.