Solar movement gaining popularity in New York City
New York, a city of soaring towers and ever-changing shadows, has designs on something that requires open skies: solar power.
But building solar isn’t easy in the Big Apple. The constantly evolving nature of the city itself is a sticking point, said Peter Davidson, a Brooklyn-based solar developer and a former head of the US Energy Department’s loan programmes office. Roof topography, strict fire codes, zoning and setback rules all need to be considered. There just isn’t as much space as in the desert, or even suburbia.
“It’s a wild forest of problems to navigate here,” said T R Ludwig, chief executive officer of installer Brooklyn SolarWorks. And yet, New York’s desire to add solar has never been stronger. It’s clean and getting cheaper – facts not lost on many residents. “People here are animated about climate change,” said Marc Kaminsky, a Brooklyn resident who recently added solar to his roof.
Panels are being installed atop brownstones, warehouses, affordable housing and post-war high-rises. There’s 154 megawatts of installed solar city-wide today, spanning about 15,000 projects, according to Ellie Kahn, a policy adviser in the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. The city is targeting 1,000 megawatts of solar by 2030. So far, most of the city’s solar projects have been outside Manhattan, the land of skyscrapers. “The tall-and-skinny doesn’t work really well. It’s expensive. There just isn’t a lot of footprint to put solar on,” said David Sandbank, director of NY-Sun at the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority. “But it pays off very nicely on wider buildings in Staten Island or Queens or Brooklyn.”
But solar is still popping up in Manhattan. Blackstone Group is installing one of the city’s biggest solar projects-3.8 megawatts at Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village on Manhattan’s east side. Panels are being installed atop the 22 acres of rooftops on the complex’s high-rises, and will cover 6 per cent of the community’s total consumption. The investment firm expects construction to be complete in early 2019.