Public school rooftop array project to add to Brooklyn’s vibrant solar sector

February 26, 2021 Raanan Geberer
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The NYC Department of Citywide Administrative Services and the New York Power Authority this week announced the selection of two firms to install rooftop solar arrays on nearly 50 public schools across the five boroughs, including 20 in Brooklyn, and on several waste water treatment facilities in Manhattan and Westchester, Delaware and Ulster counties.

The solar arrays will generate as much as 22 megawatts of solar power, enough to power 5,600 NYC residences, and reduce nearly 7,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent each year, which equates to removing more than 1,500 cars from city streets. 

At the same time, a representative of the nonprofit group Solar One told Community Board 18 in Southeast Brooklyn that the firm is partnering with the Brooklyn Public Library system to install solar panels on the roofs of the Mill Basin, Kings Highway, Coney Island and Gerritsen Beach branches. This project, which is expected to cost almost $1 million, is being funded by the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery, according to published reports.

Brooklyn has taken a leading role in the use of solar energy for many years, and a number of schools in the borough, both public and private, have solar panels on their rooftops.

For example, in 2019, EcoMen Solar activated a solar installation at the upper and middle school of The Berkeley Carroll School at 181 Lincoln Place. The installation was part of a U.S. Department of Energy pilot program, managed by the City University of New York, that targeted Cobble Hill, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope. The project was designed to provide 28.16 kW of electricity.

In late 2011, M.S. 442, the Carroll Gardens School for Innovation, installed about 4,200 square feet of solar panels on its roots. The system was designed to produce about 47.6 kW, or 152 kilowatt hours, of electricity per day. As of 2013, the school had saved more than $10,000 in electricity costs per year and had prevented the release of more than 148,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. 

The use of solar energy in Brooklyn is not limited to the educational sector. In 2018, the Fifth Avenue Committee, a housing advocacy group, began a project to install solar panels on its apartment buildings. The first stage of the installation called for solar panels to be placed on 21 buildings in Park Slope, Gowanus and Prospect Heights. “We believe it will save a family between $5 and $7 a month,” said Kedin Kilgore, a principal of Gowanus Grid & Electric, the Fifth Avenue Committee’s partner in the project.

New York City College of Technology in Downtown Brooklyn also has a program to train certified Solar PV installation professionals. The CUNY college’s program requires students to complete 58 credit hours of “rigorous coursework” to reach certification.

As far as the current school-based project is concerned, carbon emissions from public schools account for nearly one-third of emissions from the City’s building portfolio, says DCAS. Adding solar to schools provides carbon emissions reduction potential as well as opportunities for students to learn about the importance of sustainability and climate action.

Kevin Moran, chief school operations officer for the NYC Department of Education, said, “Student activism, lessons in our classrooms, and now solar panels on roofs are all evidence of our commitment to combating the effects of global warming. The young people of today are the inheritors of our planet and it is our obligation to do everything in our power to leave them with a livable, vibrant world and we are proud to join with our partner agencies to take this step in building on our commitment.”

This initiative will help achieve Mayor Bill de Blasio’s goal of installing 100 MW of solar power on public buildings by 2025 and reducing citywide emissions 80 percent by 2050, according to DCAS. It will also help achieve Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s statewide goal of having 70 percent of New York’s electricity come from renewable sources by 2030 and an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. 

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