Monday, October 16, 2017

Energy conservation and solar for NYC apartment buildings

350NYC is now organizing a series of interactive community forums on energy and climate.  The date and location of the first one, to take place this winter, will be announced later.

Following is part two of a draft version of a handout to be distributed at the forum, which will allow attendees to follow up on the short presentations and learn more at home. 

The two hour forum will feature presenters from the official NYC programs to facilitate energy conservation retrofit projects and rooftop solar panel installations in apartment building, NYC Retrofit Accelerator and Here Comes Solar, along with a property manager or a coop board leader to describe their successful project.  We’ll ask attendees willing to connect the property managers and coop board leaders of their buildings for their contact information, so this meeting will lead to actual projects. 

The third part of the forum will be the next section of the handout and the next post on this blog. Five minute introductions to three campaigns to strengthen NYC and State policies will be a lot in a short period of time - but we'll have notes. 

Energy Efficiency for your Building

About 70% of NYC’s greenhouse gas emissions come from the energy used to heat, power, and cool buildings. Since over 90% of the buildings that exist today in NYC will still be here in 2050, to achieve the City’s energy conservation goals nearly all existing buildings will have to be retrofitted to become more energy efficient. 

Transform your building. Explain to management what’s in it for them.

One of the most impactful things you can do is to encourage your building ownership or management to take action.  Contact someone on your building’s coop or condo board, or the property manager.  Explain that NYC’s free program, the Retrofit Accelerator, will help them assess what energy conservation measures (ECMs) make sense for them.

ECMs will help owners and managers save money by reducing utility bills and operating costs, reducing labor and maintenance, and increasing occupant comfort. Even if they are not concerned about lessening the building’s climate impact, they’ll recognize that green practices are increasingly standard and have marketing benefits.

Many upgrade measures will save enough from energy bills to pay for themselves in less than five years: LED lighting and sensors in common areas, sub-metering, ventilation, fuel switching, domestic hot water, HVAC controls, and distribution systems. NYC Energy and Water Use 2013 Report, p. 30.

Most of these upgrades are voluntary, and many building managers do only what is required to comply with City laws.  They will be more willing to look into them if they know that help is available – and that residents are asking.  Contact 350NYC at for a volunteer to assist you and your neighbors.

NYC Retrofit Accelerator

Staff at the City’s free advisory service streamlines the process of making energy efficiency improvements in buildings. They will work with management to assess the building’s unique needs, make connections with qualified contractors, find cash incentives and financing, train building staff, and provide support even after project completion. Connect your building representative with the Retrofit Accelerator at 212-656-9202 and

Handbook for Multifamily Buildings

Of NYC’s one million buildings, nearly 100,000 are multifamily properties.  NYC has put together a handbook specifically for them, introducing the basics of energy efficiency, incentive programs, financing, relevant local laws, and technical training programs.

Ready to Respond: Strategies for Multifamily Building Resilience

50 building resilience experts and staff from FEMA compiled this manual detailing 19 practical strategies for building owners to make their properties more resilient against the effects of extreme weather events. Determine your property’s vulnerability to various hazards, find which strategies are relevant, and how to get started.

Solar Panels for your Roof

Fix the areas where your building is wasting energy before you install solar power. Otherwise, much of the additional electricity added by the solar project will be wasted!

Rooftop Solar Power

Solar electric systems convert sunlight into electricity, and can reduce a building’s need to purchase electricity from a utility. Any excess electricity produced that your building does not use is credited to your building’s utility bill through net metering. Solar panels can be expensive, but financial incentives from NYSERDA and government tax incentives can cover as much as 80% of the costs. They can also be financed or leased to install solar for little or no money upfront.

If you own a house, you can buy or lease solar yourself.  If you live in a coop or condo apartment building, the building’s board and management must agree to consider and then install a solar project. For large, tall buildings, the solar yield from relatively limited rooftop surface area will not cover as much of the building’s common area electricity needs as in six story buildings with more roof space compared to building volume.    

Community Solar

Solarize NYC brings together groups of potential solar customers, using group purchasing power to reduce prices 10-20% from individual pricing. A community can include a neighborhood, a group of buildings, or an association such as a labor union or property management firm. Solarize NYC will assist in choosing a solar installation company that offers competitive, transparent pricing.

Community Shared Solar

This model allows building owners and renters in multifamily buildings without adequate solar access the opportunity to subscribe to portions of a large solar array located on- or off-site and managed by a third party. Each individual subscriber’s share of production will appear as a credit on their utility bill, offsetting their monthly electricity charges. If the solar array generates more electricity than subscribers use, the excess generation credits will be distributed to individual subscribers on an annual basis.

Solar PV Online Resources
• NY-Sun:
• Solarize NYC:
• Sustainable CUNY. NYC Multifamily Solar Guide:
• Here Comes Solar:

To put the brakes on climate change, we have to do much more.  Next, we'll earn about three initiatives to make NYC and NY State energy policy much stronger.

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