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For years Brooklyn has been stuck in solar limbo. On one hand, there is huge demand in the borough due to sky high electricity rates and growing climate consciousness among locals, especially post Sandy. This has been stunted by flat roof buildings, restrictive building and fire codes, and the city’s notoriously complex permitting bureaucracy.

Five years ago, Brooklyn SolarWorks landed in Gowanus with a mission to overcome these barriers and bring affordable flat roof solar to local homeowners. We’ve developed approaches to permitting, design, and installation that are specifically adapted to the area. Check out our customer map to see how many systems we’ve installed in your zip code.

Along the way we’ve discovered a lot about what makes Brooklyn an outstanding place to go solar. Here are some fundamentals that sustainably-minded homeowners exploring flat roof solar in Brooklyn should know.

1. Can solar panels be installed on a flat roof?

Many companies claim that installing flat roof solar in New York City is impossible. Fortunately this is not the case. Solar system design for flat roof buildings – particularly on 100+ year old brownstones – is our core expertise.

Our most famous innovation for flat roof solar is our award-winning Brooklyn Solar Canopy. Canopies elevate solar panels above roof obstructions while creating space for decks, green roofs and other amenities. It’s so popular that we now distribute our solar canopy to other installers all over the country through a separate company.

If a solar canopy is not your style, we’ve also mastered the art of maximizing solar with limited space through racking options. Take a look at our guide to flat roof solar for more details.

The Brooklyn Solar Canopy elevates solar panels above a flat roof.
Our patented solar canopy which elevates the solar panels – allowing homeowners to use their roof to the fullest.

2. There are lots of steps to going solar in NYC. But it’s the solar installer’s job to complete them, not the homeowner’s.

This is New York. All construction projects involve complex permitting and take time to complete. Fortunately, solar is a turn-key business, which means it’s on the installer to manage all permits and permissions on behalf of the customer with the city, Con Edison, and all other entities. Most of our flat roof solar projects take about 3-4 months to complete from contract signing. During that time, the customer is required to do almost nothing until installation day.

3. Can solar panels be installed on a landmarked home?

New York City has some of the most stringent historic preservation rules anywhere, and many Brooklyn neighborhoods have high concentrations of landmarked homes. Many of our customers logically assume that adding a space-age technology to a historic home with landmark designation won’t go over well with the city. As long as the solar panels are concealed from view from the street, flat roof solar is permitted. About 25% of Brooklyn SolarWorks projects are on landmarked homes.

Flat roof homes in Brooklyn.
Beautiful landmarked neighborhood in Park Slope

4. Solar system design, equipment, installation and operation is simple.

Customers are surprised to discover just how simple the components of a flat roof solar system actually are. Our 5-10 member installation crew completes most projects in one day, and sometimes in just a few hours for smaller projects. All of the equipment is located on the roof and in the basement’s electrical service area which are connected by a simple tube of conduit.

Once installed and turned on, none of it moves, makes any sound, or requires active input from the homeowner. Every system is connected to the internet, allowing us – and the homeowner – to monitor performance. Visit our Anatomy of a Solar System guide for a visual guide that explains installation and equipment.

Flat Roof Solar Benefits
Solar incentives and climbing electricity rates make NYC one of the best solar markets in the country. Rebates and tax credits can cover up to 70% or more of gross costs for most solar projects.

5. Brooklyn homeowners enjoy the best solar incentives in the United States.

Having super high electricity rates like we do in NYC is usually enough to make solar a worthwhile investment. But living in New York means homeowners can take advantage of several state, city, and federal tax credits that can offset up to 70% of out-of-pocket costs. This makes for fast payback times and super attractive ROI. Check out our list of different solar incentives that homeowners can put to use.

6. Going solar adds to property value, and New York City homeowners see some of the largest impacts.

According to an April 2019 study by Zillow.com solar homes sell on average at 4.1% higher than comparable homes without solar. The study also found that the solar boost was higher the NYC metro than the national average, topping out at 5.4%. That’s an extra $23,989 in value for solar homeowners in the five boroughs. The study corroborated similar findings of an early report funded by the U.S. Department of Energy.

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