New YorkThe Empire state and home of the Big Apple, New York is not just one of the most populous states in the country it's also blessed with vast, lush wildlands. The state borders two great lakes – Ontario and Erie. And it’s becoming a hotbed for the solar industry.

New York is making significant strides toward a more sustainable energy future, which will rely on renewable sources like solar power.

While the state only gets about 4 kilowatt hours of sunlight a day and systems won’t produce as much as they do in states like Arizona, other factors are making it one of the fastest-growing solar markets in the country.

For one, energy costs a lot in New York – about 16 cents per kilowatt hour, which is 20 to 50 percent more than it costs in a lot of other parts of the U.S. That makes distributed generation power sources like solar that can cut a homeowner’s utility bills more attractive. It also means any investment will pay for itself more rapidly.

On top of that intrinsic incentive, New York has established an aggressive state rebates program for solar, which will refund $1,750 per installed kilowatt hour up to $12,500 or 40 percent of the installed cost of your solar project. Solar is exempt from property tax and sales tax. And home and business owners who install solar qualify for tax credits valued at 25 percent of the installed solar project.

The state’s 22.5 percent renewable energy portfolio standard for 2020 with 2 percent required to come from solar also encourages utility companies to pony up additional incentives and rebates.

In addition to all of that, the New York legislature is debating a solar jobs bill that would require the state to install 2,200 megawatts of solar by 2022, enough to power 400,000 homes. The idea behind the bill, which has received broad support, would be to generate thousands of jobs in the solar industry and attract new energy manufacturing and installation companies to the state.

Statewide enthusiasm about solar has led to some high-profile projects like the Empire State Building’s recent $20 million investment in energy retrofits to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design gold certification for an existing structure.