FACED WITH LIMITED ROOF SPACE AND A GROWING NEED FOR ALTERNATIVE POWER SOURCES, A SOLAR DESIGN COMPANY GOES VERTICAL
BY INDUSTRY STAFF
New York City is one of the most incentive-rich urban locations in the nation for going solar. First is the compelling fact that we are among the highest utility rate payers on the planet, footing an average of 26¢ per kilowatt hour (national average is about 12¢). So, to help expand distribution without adding generating facilities, there are federal, state, and city enticements for exploring alternative sources. Washington gives a tax credit equal to 30% of renewable system cost, while Con Edison offers membership in the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority rebate program (currently 50¢ per watt of installed panels), and the state dangles a tax credit equal to 25% of system costs. Add them up, and a 50% reduction in installation expenses is easily obtained.
There’s one vexing problem in contemplating a system in Brooklyn, however; there simply isn’t typically enough roof space to accommodate the 300 or 400 square feet of panels required to put a dent in utility bills. Sure, they could be simply placed on the existing roof, but then one of the best assets in building ownership is lost.
Brooklyn Solar Works, based in Gowanus, has a simple solution: turn panels into a gazebo-like addition. Its engineers examine the structural integrity of a roof, then design a system that turns DC power created by the solar panels (via an inverter) into AC power that feeds directly into the electric meter. Energy generated during the day is used by the home, and any excess power is fed back into the grid (a process called “net metering”), which ConEd credits in bills. The company installs systems closer to the roof as well, but the custom canopy option is attractive for a variety of reasons, not least because the FDNY requires access across rooftops.
While describing his solar system, Crown Heights North Association board member Hall Drellich pointed to his utility meter with a smile.
“As you can see, it’s counting down…actually going backwards; that means we’re getting credit from ConEd,” he said, and another family member added that “total electric bills have been offset by 95%.”
“It really makes me feel like I’m part of the solution,” Drellich said. “ that’s important.”
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