By Mark Hallum
Activists stood with Queens legislators last week to urge Gov. Andrew Cuomo to adopt the goal of making a million homes across the state, including 100,000 low- income dwellings, solar-powered by 2023.
State Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), City Councilmen Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) gathered under the solar canopy of the new Hunters Point South Park Aug. 14 to set the scene for their statement promoting renewable energy.
“There is no neighborhood in New York that is more burdened by the fossil fuel energy production than… Astoria and all of western Queens,” Gianaris said. “We produce 60 percent of the electricity that New York City consumes right here and all through the use of fossil fuels. That’s got to stop if we want to have a future for our children, if we want to have a future for our society. We need to make sure that we move to renewables and there’s no better way to go than solar.”
EmPower, a solar energy company and a leader in the Million Dollar Solar Campaign, recently moved its offices to Long Island City.
“Solar and batteries in Queens are going to transform the community,” EmPower CEO David Shieren said. “The incentives are among the best in the country. Electricity costs are high, local officials support the industry and the community has the collective desire to improve air quality for better pubic health.”
Constantinides chairs the Environment Committee in the City Council and said his district has been making strides toward seeing solar become more pervasive in the community.
“As we reduce our reliance on dirty fossil fuels, we also see the reality of renewable energy taking shape,” Constantinides said. “Solar energy is a big part of that and needs a robust support system to make Queens a greener, cleaner place to live. In Astoria, we are in the process of installing more solar panels on schools as well as the Steinway library, one of the most frequented in the Queens Library system.”
New York state, under Cuomo’s current power initiative, has 200,000 homes using solar and about 9,000 worker in the solar field to support the growing industry, but Million Solar Strong believes expanding the goal will build jobs and bring financial relief to residents who pay high energy costs.
“We have a duty to our city and our planet to make clean energy like solar power more accessible,” Van Bramer said. “Investing in solar energy must be a key part of our strategy for economic innovation and sustainability in Queens moving forward. Million Solar Strong has a real and attainable goal of powering 100,000 low-income households with solar power. We can achieve our green energy future, but it takes investment today.”
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall