Briarcliff Manor-based Sunrise Solar Solutions recently hit a major milestone: four billion watt-hours in energy savings for its solar customers. Sounds impressive—even more so when you consider what that actually means: four billion watt-hours in energy savings is equivalent to more than 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. That’s the same amount of emissions you’d get from driving 6.5 million miles, or taking almost 14 round trips to the moon. The accomplishment is making the company a leading name in a movement that is gaining ground.
“New York State is extremely forward thinking and friendly toward solar,” says Sunrise Solar Solutions President Doug Hertz. “There’s a lot of incentive money that’s been made available through state agencies that everyone can take advantage of, there are wonderful subsidized loan programs that provide the low-market financing available to everyone, and New York State has done this with a very long- term commitment. For us its really been wonderful to be in Westchester because we can build a business knowing we have state policy behind us that will support what we’re doing.”
A rendering of a Sunrise Solar Solutions’ installation.
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Hertz formed Sunrise Solar Solutions in 2009 after partnering with Eric Messer and realizing the potential for a solar company in Westchester. The pair utilized 20-plus years of construction experience to make a strong push into the industry and initially grew their company one residential client at a time through referrals, before expanding into commercial projects and becoming the largest locally owned and operated solar company in Westchester. One reason Hertz believes his firm is able to stand out and make people more comfortable with solar is the firm’s respect for architecture. Hertz says the company makes it clear to customers that aesthetics are just as important as the savings, and the firm strives to make solar panels suitable to the style of the home in question.
Local solar companies like Sunrise Solar Solutions are set to receive additional state support thanks to Governor Cuomo’s recent clean energy initiative, which pledges to meet 50 percent of the state’s energy needs with renewables by 2030. Hertz called the initiative a positive not just for his firm, but also for consumers.
“What’s really valuable is we have an administration and we have a set of policies in New York State that allow for predictability, long-term business growth, and long-term acceptance of solar and other renewables,” Hertz says. “There’ll be a consistent path to make sure that people are comfortable, that they’ll be able to have solar, and the decisions that they’re making today will continue to be in place decades from now in regards to interconnected policies.”
Another rendering of a Sunrise Solar Solutions’ installation.
While New York seems at first to be less suitable for solar energy compared to sunnier regions, Hertz says that’s not the case. “Germany used to be the place on the planet that had the most solar installations per capita, and the sunniest spot in Germany is roughly equivalent to Seattle. We get about thirty percent more sun available everyday [in New York] than in places that have already made it work,” he explains.
Less than one percent of New York State is powered by solar energy currently, although solar is on the rise. New York is estimated to be among the top-10 states nationwide last year in new solar installations, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
“When you think about it, this was done one panel at a time, one home at a time,” says Hertz. “Cumulatively, these systems have a real impact and while anyone considering going green may not necessarily think they’re helping the environment, they really are. Each year we’re going to see that number [of solar customers] growing and growing as more systems come online.”