Rooftop solar systems could harness enough rays to power one-half of the city’s power needs, according to a recent study by the City University of New York (CUNY). The analysis of the city’s buildings found that two-thirds of all city buildings have roofs suitable for solar power, yet solar power is virtually an untapped market in the city.

To help promote the solar usage, as well as provide a solution to increasing energy needs, New York City has created five Solar Empowerment Zones to encourage building owners to fit their roofs with solar energy panels to reduce reliance on the overtaxed grid.

While the project is focused on high-rises and other high-occupancy buildings, home owners and apartment dwellers alike can also do their part to help make New York City greener with solar panel projects ranging from full-roof installations to portable devices that can charge your portable electronics without plugging into the grid.

Rooftop Installations

For New York City homeowners, New York City offers tax incentives for those that install solar panels atop their homes as well as step-by-step instructions on how to understand your energy needs, navigate the complex maze of building codes and regulations and find the best contractor for the job.

In order to be in compliance with city regulations, do-it-yourself installations are usually not permitted. All homeowners must hire a solar design professional to do the job, apply for the proper permits and guarantee that the current roof can hold the extra load before beginning construction. A list of authorized professionals is available from the city.

While the initial outlay is costly, switching over to solar energy should be seen as a long-term investment, one that will reduce or eliminate power bills and keep your electricity on during the next power failure.

Portable Options

For the majority of New Yorkers who rent or cannot afford to shell out thousands on rooftop installations, small-scale, do-it-yourself options can allow you to have a solar-powered back-up for power failures or reduce your energy bill by powering your electronics with the help of the sun. Here are a few of the options, available to purchase via the internet, that provide an affordable way to reduce the amount of wattage you pull from your plugs.

SpinRay Energy

SpinRay Energy offers a modular, deck or patio-mounted solar power package that requires no expert installation. Using a simple 110-volt outlet, the plug-and-play unit generates a surprising amount of power and is perfect for renters with a south-facing deck or patio area. It can also be removed and taken with you to your next home.


For those lucky enough to have roof access and a friendly landlord, EarthTech offers portable solar generators for homes and campers. Featuring user-friendly plug-and-play operation and fume-free operation, the generator offers a fuel-free outdoor energy source perfect to power your next roof party or charge up your essentials during the next blackout.

Goal Zero

Goal Zero offers a range of portable and standalone solar panels that require no installation and are powerful enough to recharge your electronic devices whether on the road or on your balcony or fire escape. Perfect for a power outage or to reduce your everyday reliance on the grid, Goal Zero products are great for people who have little space but still want to benefit from solar energy.

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Tamar Auber is a freelance writer whose work can be found on

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