By Bill Parry
Legislation encouraging the use of solar energy on city-owned buildings passed by unanimous vote in the City Council last week.
Under the bill, known as Introduction 478-A, authored by City Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria), the city will provide online reports that will analyze the feasibility of installing roof-top solar panels, the estimated energy that would be generated and the carbon emissions that would be reduced. The reports will also look at the amount of solar power and energy production that were cost effectively installed on city-owned buildings since the previous reporting period.
The cost-effectiveness studies will consider utility bill savings as well as the long-term societal impact of carbon emissions. These cost-benefit estimates will provide greater transparency into the feasibility of installing solar panels on city buildings, including schools. This will help private property owners understand the potential utility savings and construction costs of solar panel systems if they wish to install them in their own homes.
“The online reports on feasibility and cost of installing solar panels on city buildings required in this bill will encourage the use of solar energy,” Constantinides said. “The reporting of the decisions behind whether to install solar systems will increase transparency on our city’s use of renewable energy. The online reports will include cost-benefit estimates, which will be useful for private property owners who are interested in installing solar panels on their own homes. They’ll be able to save green while going green.”
He said the policy will help bring the city closer to its goal of increasing solar capacity and decreasing carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Constantinides, chairman of the Council’s Environmental Protection Committee, has made sustainability and environmental protection a top priority.
In 2014, the City Council passed his bill to reduce carbon emissions and last year the Council passed another Constantinides bill that encourages the use of geothermal energy. He has also introduced bills to spur the use of biofuels and another that studies the environmental and health impacts of city policies on low-income communities.
In his State of the City address, Mayor Bill de Blasio committed to increasing solar capacity on city buildings fivefold over the next three years to 25 mega watts, enough to power 6,000 New York City households. The city owns over 4,000 buildings, including public schools, public hospitals, libraries, courthouses, fire houses and police precincts.
These buildings account for 65 percent of the city government’s total carbon footprint.
“Introduction 478-A reinforces New York City’s commitment to clean distributed energy and improved air quality,” the director of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability Nilsa Mesa said. “This bill will enable city decision-makers to collect important information to support our clean energy strategy while making it more transparent to the public.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr