Theses Master's

The Effectiveness of Using Incentives in Spatial Zones to Promote Renewable Energy: A Case Study: New York City's Solar Empowerment Zone Program

Blake, Lisa K.

Urban planning utilizes regulations and incentives such as FAR bonuses to spatially target changes in the built form. This concept can be employed formally through the zoning resolution or more informally through special economic development districts. Recently, however, this same concept has also been employed to promote renewable energy, by targeting limited resources in locations where they might be most cost-effective. While this idea- in ways an antecedent for formal renewable energy districts or zones- is innovative, it remains to be seen if targeting incentives spatially in such a manner is effective in terms of actual renewable energy deployment. To analyze this issue, this paper explores New York City's recent Solar Empowerment Zone Program. Its purpose is twofold: to both analyze whether the program is effective and, on a larger level, to determine if spatially targeting incentives and resources such as education and streamlined permitting can effectively promote solar energy. To accomplish this, both a GIS and statistical analysis were conducted to ascertain whether the number of planned and existing solar installations within the zones were different from those outside the zones. Additionally, approximately 20 stakeholder interviews were conducted to determine what aspects of the zones were working well, what needed further improvement, and what over-arching lessons could be offered regarding using zoning to promote solar energy. The main findings were that education within the zones was not as effective as hoped in terms of increasing solar deployment and that the concept of solar zones should only be pursued when the correct balance of stakeholder interests exists. Finally, incentives within the zones need to be different enough from locations outside the zones if they are to drive the decision making process.

Geographic Areas


More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
May 21, 2012