4.10.19 – “The People’s Power”

The below excerpts are from an interview with Elizabeth Yeampierre and Lourdes Pérez-Medina of UPROSE:

This fall, Sunset Park Solar, New York City’s first co-operatively owned solar garden, will be installed on the roof of the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Community solar projects are growing across the United States, providing much more than renewable energy. Once connected, the almost-two-acre array will feed back into New York City’s energy grid. The value of this electricity will then be converted into credits, reducing monthly energy bills for the 150 Sunset Park households and small businesses who have signed up to be co-op members. Beyond conventional single-family home rooftop installations, the project is a model for urban solar generation that can reduce reliance on fossil fuels and the proportion of household income spent on energy, while creating new jobs on an industrial waterfront. It’s exemplary of everything UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization, fights for…

Lourdes Pérez-Medina (LPM): It’s the first community-owned solar cooperative in the city. The partners — UPROSE, Solar One, and Co-op Power — all of us bring different expertise to the table. Solar One provides technical assistance and Co-op Power has the expertise about building a cooperative structure for solar. And then UPROSE is really the community roots and advocate for the development of community-owned renewable energy in Sunset Park…

Elizabeth Yeampierre (EY): We’ve spent years talking to New York City Economic Development Corporation about the property that they own on the industrial waterfront and how it can be used for renewable energy, climate adaptation, mitigation and resiliency — in short, advocating for using the industrial waterfront to address local and regional needs. We have suggested they not respond to the market, but create it. There are some people at the EDC who are seriously concerned about climate change and are trying to think creatively about how to strengthen relationships with communities, and how to do something that’s innovative and that can be replicated and built up to scale. So this is a great opportunity for the NYCEDC to engage in a community-led initiative that begins the work of realizing that larger vision. But this does not happen overnight. The market we need is one that addresses the use of regenerative energy and rethinks an industrial waterfront that is now faced with climate change.

LPM: There are also many conversations going on about collective ownership structures. The fact is that for community-based organizations to be able to tackle this kind of project, they need site control. In a city like New York, which is very real estate heavy, that is amazingly difficult. So, city-owned structures and city properties become a huge asset in this type of development…

LPM: Along with the community outreach for membership of the solar array, we’re also tackling outreach to get residents of Sunset Park to go through a jobs training program to enable them to be part of installing the solar array. Half of the people building and installing the solar array are going to be people that have gone through that jobs training program…

EY: For a long time there have been industrial activities that use a lot of diesel trucks. There’s the Gowanus Expressway, a lot of power plants. But unlike other communities that see them as a problem, we see them as businesses that can be retrofitted, repowered, made adaptable so that the workers are safer and healthier. We see them as part of the solution. The industrial sector, the businesses and the trucks, can be re-powered. We can have a waterfront where container ships can plug in. When people talk about offshore wind benefitting Sunset Park, they usually expect that parts would all come from Europe via ship, and the ship would be parked on the industrial waterfront. And we thought, well, what if instead of just assembling it here, we made it here? What if we get American businesses that make wind turbines to invest in these industrial waterfronts? If the parts come in from Europe and the ships anchor on our waterfront and spew diesel, climate solutions can become environmental justice problems.

Read the full interview here.

— Posted by JVS on 4.16.19, backdated to 4.10.19


1.16.19 – “The Green New Deal in New York will double solar power”

As reported by pv magazine:

In his far-ranging 2019 State of the State (pdf) presentation, Governor Cuomo summarized past positions related to energy, and has added future goals. Specifically, the document is calling for a “globally unprecedented ramp-up of renewable energy”, which would include:

  • An increase of New York’s successful Clean Energy
    Standard from 50% to 70% renewable
    electricity by 2030, and 100% clean energy by 2040
  • Quadrupling New York’s offshore wind target to 9,000 megawatts by 2035, up from 2,400 megawatts by 2030
  • Doubling distributed solar deployment to 6,000 megawatts by 2025, up from 3,000 megawatts by 2023
  • More than doubling new large-scale land-based wind and solar resources through the Clean Energy Standard
  • Maximizing the contributions and potential of New York’s existing renewable resources
  • Deploying 3,000 megawatts of energy storage by 2030

Also announced was that 20 large-scale solar, wind, and energy storage projects across upstate New York have been awarded via competitive bids as part of the Clean Energy Standard program. The awards were based on a solicitation scheduled in spring of 2018, and the state expects several projects to break ground as early as August 2019, with all projects expected to be operational by 2022.

Read the full story here. 

— Posted by JVS on 1.16.19

12.28.18 – December statements from Gov. Cuomo re: NY State carbon and renewable energy goals

As reported by Utility Drive on 12.18.18: 

From a 12.17.18 press release put out by Gov. Cuomo’s office:

In the face of the federal government’s assault on New York, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today unveiled his “2019 Justice Agenda,” urging the legislature to act in the first 100 days of the next legislative session. The Governor’s agenda represents a suite of ambitious proposals to ensure the promise of full, true justice for all, including economic justice, social justice, racial justice…

Launch a $150 Billion Infrastructure Plan: While the federal government fails to make progress on an infrastructure plan, Governor Cuomo will expand on New York’s nation-leading $100 billion infrastructure plan — building new airports, bridges and train stations all across the state — by investing an additional $150 billion in our infrastructure that will create hundreds of thousands of jobs…

Launch the Green New Deal: The federal government still denies climate change, remarkably turning a blind eye to their own government’s scientific report. New York will be the most progressive state in the nation in moving to renewables and growing the new sustainable green economy. The Green New Deal will make New York’s electricity 100% carbon neutral by 2040 and put the state on the path to eliminating its carbon footprint. 

From a 12.17.18 press release from the Solar Energy Industries Association: 

WASHINGTON, D.C. and ALBANY, N.Y. – Today, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) commended New York Governor Andrew Cuomo for pledging to move New York to 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040, which he announced in a speech on his early 2019 policy agenda.

Following is a statement by Sean Gallagher, SEIA’s Vice President of State Affairs: 

“Governor Cuomo’s commitment to move New York to 100 percent carbon-free electricity is historic, and will cement New York’s place among America’s clean energy leaders. This plan can bring massive economic and environmental benefits to communities throughout the state, spurring many new, well-paying jobs and cleaner air.

“We look forward to working with the Cuomo Administration to craft the near-term plan for reaching this long-term goal. Specific examples include doubling down on solar and committing to obtaining 6 gigawatts of solar by 2023, establishing strong policies in the ongoing Value of Distributed Energy Resources case and bringing more large-scale solar to New York.”

— Posted by JVS on 12.28.18

12.5.18 – “Solar Uptown Now Shines Light on a Just Transition to Clean Energy and Green Jobs in Harlem”

The below press release was posted by We Act for Environmental Justice. Emphasis is mine.

Solar Uptown Now Shines Light on a Just Transition to Clean Energy and Green Jobs in Harlem


December 5, 2018
Contact: Chris Dobens, 212-961-1000 ext. 320, chris@weact.org
Michael Barry, 646-576-5656, barry@solar1.org
Rania Dalloul, 212-479-3324, dalloul@uhab.org

HARLEM, NY — Solar Uptown Now (S.U.N.) is demonstrating how low- and middle-income communities and communities of color can successfully make a just transition to clean, affordable energy while also creating good, green jobs for local residents. This community-initiated program is in the process of installing 270 kW-DC of rooftop solar capacity on nine Housing Development Fund Corporation (HDFC) affordable housing cooperatives in Harlem and Washington Heights, with two additional installations on market-rate buildings that will bring the total capacity to 415 kW-DC. To date, four S.U.N. installations have been completed, three of which are HDFC co-ops in Harlem: 660 St. Nicholas Avenue, 128 West 138th Street, and 45-53 West 110th Street; the fourth is a market-rate brownstone on East 120th Street. The other buildings are in various stages of the permitting and construction process.

Once completed, the 11 rooftop solar installations will offset an estimated 4,117 tons of greenhouse gas emissions over their 25-year lifespan, which will reduce the local carbon footprint and help combat climate change. They will also reduce demand for electricity from local power plants, thereby helping reduce air pollution and related health effects like respiratory illnesses in the community.

The S.U.N. installations produce power for building common areas (hallways, elevators, and laundry/common rooms), reducing operating expenses for the co-ops. The 900 residents of the nine HDFCs will receive an estimated combined savings of $59,000 during the first year after installation and more than $1.7 MM in savings over the solar installations’ 25-year life. These savings will enable the participating buildings to reallocate funds for building maintenance and reserves, providing the co-ops with financial security and helping them maintain long-term affordability for residents of the HDFCs.

Affordable Housing
S.U.N. distinguishes itself from other solar programs by targeting affordable housing. Solarize campaigns organize homeowners into purchasing groups to negotiate discounted transparent pricing from a solar company and install solar at the same time. Since 2009 there have been dozens of successful solarize campaigns across the country[1], most typically in suburban areas with single-family homes, but S.U.N. is the first successful solar purchasing group specifically for multi-family affordable housing, where the barriers to solar adoption are greatest and the cost savings are most needed. WE ACT for Environmental Justice and its partners are focusing on HDFC cooperatives because they are a unique form of affordable housing in New York City that provides homeownership opportunities to low- and moderate-income families, and there is a high density of HDFCs in Northern Manhattan.

“The S.U.N. campaign is the first successful implementation of the solarize model on multi-family buildings in a high-density urban area. Replicating this innovative model in similar neighborhoods is crucial to expanding access to solar energy to urban communities, particularly low- and moderate-income communities of color who face disproportionately higher energy cost burden and are more likely to be exposed to environmental issues. Solar energy is a solution that not only provides energy savings, but also addresses environmental and equity issues in urban communities,” said Juan Parra, Program Manager at Solar One.

“The reason we decided to pursue HDFCs is because these low-income co-ops are predominantly owned by people of color, who are often overlooked by mainstream efforts to address climate change even though they shoulder a disproportionate burden of global warming,” added Cecil Corbin-Mark, Deputy Director and Director of Policy Initiatives at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “The program was born out of Northern Manhattan residents’ desire to combat climate change, and the fact that the costs savings bolster the long-term affordability of these HDFCs – which also helps stave off displacement and gentrification in these communities – makes it even more attractive for all involved.”

“Energy efficiency and sustainability in buildings is important first and foremost because it saves co-ops money in their operating budgets that can be reinvested towards the comfort and safety of residents, and to keeping the buildings affordable,” said Sasha Hill, Urban Homesteading Assistance Board Project Associate. “Our joint partnership through SUN has provided education, free technical assistance, and financing options for HDFC co-ops, empowering residents to make informed decisions about if and how to use renewable energy for themselves. When residents get power to make decisions, you can expect outcomes like this: a focus on continued affordability and sustainability for the future.”

Green Jobs for Locals
Another way in which the S.U.N. program distinguishes itself is by incorporating a pathway to green jobs for members of the local community. WE ACT has been providing free worker training since 2012, funded by the New York State Department of Labor, and started offering free solar installation training in 2018 in partnership with Solar One as part of the S.U.N. program. The request for job training and the requirement that the S.U.N. installer, 770 Electric Corp., hire some of these local trainees was mandated by the community and WE ACT members. To date, the program has provided solar installation training to more than 100 unemployed and underemployed Northern Manhattan residents, with five of them landing solar jobs – including two who are working with 770 Electric Corp. on the S.U.N. installations.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier, in that it builds upon layers of existing challenges – including public health, economic, and racial injustices,” added Corbin-Mark. “To ensure a just transition from fossil fuels to clean energy, and help improve the overall health of the community, it is essential that programs such as Solar Uptown Now include worker training and job opportunities for local residents – which is something the community and WE ACT members demanded, and we built in to the program.”

# # #

In 2016, nonprofits WE ACT for Environmental Justice (WE ACT), Solar One and the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) partnered to launch the S.U.N. program. It is supported by the NYC Solar Partnership as part of the Solarize NYC program, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s N.Y. Sun initiative as well as by generous funding for WE ACT from The Kresge Foundation and the Energy Foundation. The NYC Solar Partnership is led by Sustainable CUNY of the City University of New York, which works collaboratively with the New York City Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the New York City Economic Development Corporation to promote an equitable and self-sustaining solar market in pursuit of the Mayor’s goal of increasing solar capacity around the city. In addition, WE ACT’ Worker Training program is funded by Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Department of Labor.

The WE ACT program originated from a community based planning effort as part of WE ACT’s Northern Manhattan Climate Action plan. WE ACT manages the program, spearheading the work in the community, recruiting partners Solar One and UHAB to help evaluate potential sites, consult with the HDFC boards to determine financing strategies and gain approval, and solicit bids from qualified local solar companies.

Solar One is an environmental nonprofit that empowers New Yorkers to help solve our most pressing environmental challenges through its diverse programs including K-12 environmental education, green workforce training, and the Here Comes Solar program, which provides technical assistance to building owners, affordable housing providers, and community groups to advance their solar projects. Since 2014, Solar One has facilitated more than 260 successful solar installations in NYC’s underserved markets. Learn more at www.solar1.org and http://HereComesSolar.nyc.

Solarize NYC is a citywide program led by Sustainable CUNY, with support from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and Economic Development Corporation, that is designed to further increase access to solar through community group purchasing campaigns through 2025, with a goal of lowering costs by 10 to 20 percent for participants and increasing solar capacity in communities that have historically had limited access to solar. Solarize NYC is a core component of New York City’s OneNYC goal of expanding renewable energy for all New Yorkers as the City moves away from fossil fuels and toward renewables part of Mayor de Blasio’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050. Solarize NYC will increase solar capacity citywide and remove barriers for communities that have historically had limited access to clean energy. Communities that are interested in applying can find more information at Solarize NYC.

WE ACT for Environmental Justice is a Northern Manhattan membership-based organization whose mission is to build healthy communities by ensuring that people of color and/or low income residents participate meaningfully in the creation of sound and fair environmental health and protection policies and practices. WE ACT has offices in New York and Washington, D.C. Visit us at weact.org and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB) is a New York City based nonprofit that provides support and services to low-income co-ops and renters across the city. Founded in 1973, UHAB was instrumental in guiding distressed rental buildings to become thriving co-ops under the ownership and maintenance of their residents. Today, UHAB continues to sustain affordable HDFC co-ops through technical assistance, training, and services including energy efficiency programs. Learn more at http://uhab.coop/ and follow us on Instagram.

— Posted by JVS on 4.19.19, backdated to 12.5.18

11.8.18 – Report: “UPROSE, partners contracted for New York’s first cooperatively-owned community solar array”

As reported by Solar Power World on 11.8.18:

New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) announced the selection of UPROSE, Solar One and Co-op Power to develop and operate a community solar garden at the Brooklyn Army Terminal (BAT). The rooftop solar array will be the first cooperatively-owned project if its kind in New York State, and will connect hundreds of New Yorkers and industrial businesses to sustainable energy through a subscription-based service…

While the use of solar technology has increased over the years, installation costs, space requirements, and a lack of rooftop ownership has made investing in solar energy challenging in New York City. By leveraging space at BAT, a city-owned asset, the solar garden will offset energy costs for subscribers. These subscribers will cooperatively own the solar array, participate in the project’s governance, and potentially earn dividends in the long-term…

UPROSE, along with partners Co-op Power, Solar One, 770 Electric Corp and Resonant Energy will develop an 80,000 square ft. community solar garden on the roof of BAT’s Building B.

Read the full story here.

— Posted by JVS on 11.9.18, backdated to 11.8.18

11.8.18 – Report: “This co-op solar project will be owned by the community members it benefits”

As reported by Fast Company on 11.8.18:

…[N]ow, on the roof of the Brooklyn Army Terminal–a decommissioned army building now owned and being redeveloped by the NYC Economic Development Corporation as a local business hub–a partnership between NYCEDC, the nonprofit Solar One, the cooperative financing agency Co-op Power, and the local environmental advocacy group Uprose is creating a, 80,000-square-foot solar garden. Once completed, it will be one of the first examples of a cooperatively owned urban power supply, and potentially a model for other city coalitions to follow when looking for mutually beneficial ways to repurpose public rooftops as communal solar energy sources…

Subscriptions to the solar array, once it comes online next year, will be open to low-income residents of Sunset Park. Noah Ginsburg, a project facilitator and designer from Solar One, estimates that around 200 households will be able to subscribe. A typical New York City household’s average utility bill is around $100, but that can fluctuate radically due to seasonal energy needs. A subscription through the community solar project will reduce those monthly costs by around 20%.

Once residents subscribe, they will become a member of the New York City Community Energy Cooperative, the member-driven governing body for the project. As cooperative members, they’ll meet monthly to discuss costs and community matters. “The vision is that community members will actually own this utility,” Yeampierre says. Co-op Power, at least initially, will serve as the legal owner of the project–it was necessary to receive the tax credits and loans for financing, Ginsburg says. But once enough subscription fees have been collected to cover the cost of the installation, in around seven years, ownership will officially transfer to subscribers.

Read the full story here.

— Posted by JVS on 11.9.18, backdated to 11.8.18

8.12.18 – Solar energy research: “NYCEDC Launches Community Solar Garden at Brooklyn Army Terminal”

As announced by the EDC in March, 2018:

NEW YORK, NY – New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC) today launched an effort to bring a community solar garden to the Brooklyn Army Terminal. NYCEDC will provide up to 100,000 square feet of rooftop space to pilot a subscription-based, shared solar program for Sunset Park residents and local industrial businesses.

While the use of solar technology has increased over the years, installation costs, space requirements, and lack of rooftop ownership has made investing in solar energy challenging for some in New York City. By leveraging space at the innovative Brooklyn Army Terminal campus, NYCEDC can offset individual costs and deliver affordable solar energy to the community…

NYCEDC is seeking proposals from experienced solar power providers and local community organizations. As the pilot program aims to establish an affordable alternative to traditional electricity providers, proposals must both demonstrate a cost-savings for Sunset Park residents and a robust community-engagement plan to ensure residents have the opportunity to take advantage of the program.

Subscribers of the program will pay a monthly membership fee, rather than an electricity bill. Similar programs have been launched in Sacramento, Washington State, and University of Maryland, all of which have resulted in energy cost-savings…

Administration Solar Efforts
Since the start of the de Blasio administration, solar power capacity has more than quadrupled, providing more than 140 megawatts (MW) of electricity and directly supporting more than 2,700 jobs across the five boroughs. Another 60MW are in the process of being installed. These efforts support the Mayor’s goal of installing 1 gigawatt of solar capacity citywide by 2030, enough to power 250,000 homes.

NYC Solar Partnership, led by Sustainable CUNY in collaboration with the NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and the New York City Economic Development Corporation, is responsible for advancing the Administration’s efforts in solar capacity. The Solar Partnership is working to promote an equitable and self-sustaining solar market through two programs: Shared Solar NYC and Solarize NYC, a community-led group purchasing program. These programs and related efforts to expand solar on public and private buildings are part of Mayor de Blasio’s sweeping commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050.

Shared Solar NYC supports Community Shared Solar (CSS) programs through the Shared Solar gateway.  CSS projects allow anyone to benefit from solar regardless of home ownership. CSS programs install a large solar energy system on a host site and invites the community to subscribe to shares of the solar power in return for credits on their electric bill. CSS creates fiscal rewards for both the host and the community participants.

Read the full press release here.

— Posted by JVS on 8.12.18

3.14.18 – Background: NY State solar energy data from the SEIA

The below document on the New York State solar industry was produced by the Solar Energy Industry Association, or SEIA, a solar energy trade association. The SEIA describes itself as “the driving force behind solar energy,” adding that it “is building a strong solar industry to power America through advocacy and education.” The document is dated January 9, 2018.

— Posted on 3.14.18 by JVS