Powering New York City buildings with the sun

- On the roof of a building in Manhattan's Alphabet City neighborhood sits one of 250 projects by a company called Here Comes Solar. With help from state funding, Here Comes Solar has been working with affordable-housing providers to provide low-cost solar energy.

The 18 solar panels power the small building's security system and hallway lights, according to program manager Anika Wistar-Jones. In larger buildings, the panels would also power the elevators and laundry room.

The building's electricity meter moves in reverse because it gets money back for surplus solar energy. This building saves thousands of dollars each year thanks to the solar panels, which have a life expectancy of a quarter of a century.

Here Comes Solar Director Noah Ginsburg said that energy is the second-highest cost for New Yorkers,  right behind housing. He said that solar power has a real opportunity to reduce New Yorkers' energy burden and reduce their electricity bills.

In the past, solar contractors didn't want to work in New York City because of complicated permit rules and buildings that have boards with multiple decision-makers. But Here Comes Solar found a way to organize decision-makers of a building, cut through red-permit-tape, and even create a market of contractors by training New Yorkers who were having a hard time on the job market.

Here is an additional benefit. Most blackouts start during the day when the weather is hottest and all the air conditioners are running. Solar power generates the most electricity when the sun shines so it feeds that electricity back into the system. Wistar-Jones said that evidence shows that solar power can help the grid by reducing peak demand.

The benefits of solar are being brought to the city with just a staff of nine people overseeing 250 projects and literally working for a brighter future.

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