Solar Summit 2007 Report

As promised, a report from Solar Summit 2007, by guest blogger Mike Adams of NY Wind. About Mike:

• Mike Adams considers himself a citizen of the earth. He currently splits his time between working with Community Energy to spread the word about wind power and electric choice, working on an two organic farms, Sun One Solar Farm in Bethlehem, CT and Regeneration CSA in High Falls, NY, and teaching math. He feels the true beginnings of sustainability will come when it becomes discussed that large decreases in consumption are essential. He has lived in NYC since the blackout of 2003.

Mike can also answer questions about renewable energy options for NYC residents, including how to change your home electricity bill to “green power”. Feel free to post questions or comments at the end of this report, and be sure to visit NY Wind’s website.

coney_island_solar.jpg
Solar Panels on roof of MTA Stillwell Ave Station (photo by tigre)

NYC Solar Summit, June 21, 2007 at the Museum of Natural History.

About two weeks ago a group of solar installers, policy makers, academics and others interested in the solar industry and how NYC will develop its own solar resource congregated on the day with the most sun to discuss NYC’s solar situation. Many thanks to Bronx Community College and the Center for Sustainable Energy for bringing together this event.

Tria Case, Executive Director of BCC CSE started the day off with words of inspiration, a sense of urgency, and her vision for what NYC can achieve with the right minds, policy and money flow all working together. NYC uses a lot of power; we have experienced blackouts last year and already this year during the very hot days. More will come. We need to generate more power here in the city. Gas is our preferred method of generation right now, but prices will continue to rise and diversity is essential.

Currently NYC uses about 6000-8000 mwh of instantaneous demand. We have less than 2 mw of solar installed. Current Con Ed regulations will allow that to grow to 8 mw — pardon my opinion here, but whoop-di-do. Anthony Pereira of AltPower feels that we could grow to 300 mw installed within a decade. The most interesting (to me) panel of the day was the one with Anthony, Con Ed rep Rebecca Craft, and Colin Murchie from Sun Edison. Sun Edison uses the concept of finding a good solar site, approaching the owner about rental of the roof, and installing their own panels, owning the system themselves. The owner of the property simply lets the roof be used and collects a rent. Goldman-Sachs is a large investor in Sun Edison projects. [From speaking with Colin later I learned that the companies Sun Edison collaborates with are able to sign long-term power contracts, locking in their electricity rates for 10-20 years. Given the widely held theory that electricity rates will at least double within that period, such a contract is no small benefit. -AP]

Con Ed’s statement is that the grid is old and cannot handle the distributed loads that large solar installs would place on the grid. Many call for an independent review of the grid to determine what can be added, where, and what needs to be done to allow more solar to be installed. Without that review, we are at the mercy of Con Ed’s limitations.

Another topic of discussion was the rebates and incentives that are very much driving the solar industry. This is quite interesting. A general rule of thumb is that a job costs up to $10/ watt complete. A 5 kw system would be about $50,000. Rebates and incentives can cover about ½ of this. But there is a limit to each rebate and to the total pot. Installing solar is basically a trade job — you need to go and do an estimate, write a proposal, install and collect money. You need a roofer, electrician, a trained solar person and grunt labor. There are costs that can be eliminated if the idea is that we are in an energy crisis and solar has to be installed quickly and in large amounts. I had a personal discussion that day with Jeff Peterson of NYSERDA in which he told me that the goal of the rebates is not to bring large amounts of solar to the grid but to invigorate the industry and help get many companies started on the path of solar installs and maintenance. I think that that is important but I also think that we need to bring large amounts of solar to the grid and there is nothing that really encourages very large projects — not in NY State right now. We must also realize that this rebate money is coming from somewhere — that is, from everyone who pays an electric bill.

The third session was a bit slower, after a great lunch which we were treated to at a restaurant across 77th that I cannot remember the name of. We ended the day with a presentation about PlaNYC 2030 from Rohit Aggarwala, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability. Here we heard about how NYC will have another 1 million people by 2030, everyone will live within 10 minutes of a park, brownfields will be clean, subway lines will be added, air quality will improve, and more. The goals are set, and steps have begun to be taken, but it takes a lot of steps to walk to California. If this is a true priority of the administration, the possibilities are vast and chance of success, barring peak oil actually happening, are reasonable. I am less than optimistic about seeing some of the visions come to fruition, but I have been advised to be patient, for a lot can get done in this city when all the pieces come together.

Overall the day was great. The weather was superb — this was pre-late June heat wave. The assembling of great minds was incredible. I believe connections were made, relationships developed, and ideas grew as lunchtime discussions provided opportunities for dialogue.

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I would be happy to answer any specific questions anyone has about the conference, or discuss renewable energy in general. I have started a website, www.nywind.com, with the goal of educating people about wind power and the options that we as electric customers have in choosing our electric supply.

Mike Adams

mike@nywind.com
www.nywind.com
How is your electric generated? Choose wind.

2 Responses to “ Solar Summit 2007 Report ”

  1. I own a corner 6 story mixed use building downtown, below canal street in NYC. I am in the process of builing a penthouse and have to redo my entire rooftop. I would like to be green but i really need someone to advise me if it makes fianical sense and can be done with the new configuration.

  2. bill, you could try getting in touch with the folks at GreenHome NYC. they are a great source of information and encouragement to help buildings go green.

    with energy prices only going up, it is safe to say that any building that incorporates energy efficiency will make financial sense. that should be your first step, and even if it’s your only step this is the “greenest” thing any of us can do, in my opinion. “sexier” stuff like solar panels and green roofs are just icing on the cake, energy efficiency IS the cake.

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