Solar Energy in NYC

Solar Energy….

The cost of solar power has gone down 60 percent since 2011 according to U.S. Solar Energy Industries Association—article. Across the market it is becoming cheaper to install solar panels. One new solar panel rooftop is being installed every four minutes.

What about NYC?

In January of this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged to tribute one billion dollars of new funding to solar energy projects. Administration hopes increased production in the market of solar energy will drive down the cost and provide incentive for other energy corporations to invest in solar.—link— New York ranks 12th in the nation for installed total solar capacity. However, the increase of solar power generation will still be less than one percent of total energy production in the U.S.

Some NYC residents and businesses are going completely solar, here is a map of all the solar installations in NYC—CUNY’s solar map of NYC.

How much does it cost?

Although its cheaper at the business level to install solar power it is still expensive on a residential consumer to install solar panels. However, New York City is one of the cheapest states in the country to install solar energy— just under $10,000 dollars on average. Over a 20 year period this could save you up to $30,000 dollars on your bill. link to a solar energy consumer benefits study.

If you are living in New York City and want a quote today click here.Tweet @AltEnergyNYC your total solar panel cost!

Why should you care?

Solar panels produce clean renewable energy from the sun. Transportation, excavation, or locating fossil fuels is not required when using solar energy. Solar power is advantageous for saving on your utility bill over a long period of time. Solar panels do not create air or water pollution and do not emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Environmental Disadvantages of Solar Power…

One disadvantage to solar power is the amount of land it uses. Land degradation and habitat loss can occur when compiling the necessary elements to install solar panels. Land area requirements depends on the topography of the site, technology, and intensity of the solar resource. Other disadvantages of solar energy are Water use, hazardous materials and life-cycle global warming emission according to this article from the Concerned Union of Scientists.

New Solar Energy Research!….

A new research study Agave plants can grow underneath solar panels. Photovoltaic solar panels need water to clean off dust and dirt so the panels run at maximum efficiency. Water also dampens the ground to prevent dust buildup. The agave plants don’t require a lot of water and can prevent the dust buildup of the solar panels, essentially creating a 2 for 1 energy payoff. Explore this more comprehensive link.


AltEnergyNYC Top Five for the week of April 27, 2014

@Jelena_Subotic here with your @AltEnergyNYC top 5 tweets of the week. 

1. @ClimateCentral tweeted an article about how each state compares in spending on biking. According to the article, New York allocates 7-11% of transportation spending on bike/walk projects. We beat Connecticut, Utah and Michigan to name a few. 


2. Jobs! @NYEnergyWeek tweeted about Governor Cuomo’s announcement regarding $500,000 in training grants for green jobs.


3. @REWorld tweeted an article about the Battery and Energy Storage Technology (BEST) Testing and Commercialization Center in Rochester, New York


4. @climateparents tweeted about storms & the NYC seawall and how the new figures compare to the past.


5. @KrapelsMarco tweeted about 10x more solar power coming to New York.


Do you have a favorite alternative energy tweet from this week? Reach out to us: @AltEnergyNYC.


The 10 Largest Solar Installations In Manhattan

By Leif Skodnick

You might not know it when you walk the sidewalks of New York, but there are solar power installations all over the city.

According to NYC Solar Map, which was developed by Sustainable CUNY, there are 1,031 solar installations in the city, with a total capacity of 22,411 kW.

But what does that mean? Well, each kW (kilowatt) of capacity potential replaces 1 kW of electricity generated from a different source. Energy use, for billing purposes, is measured in kilowatt hours (kWh), which is one hour of use of one kilowatt.  Each year, the city uses approximately 60,000 gWh (that’s gigawatt hours) of electricity.

These ten buildings each have a total solar capacity of 725.22 kW, which is about 3.25 percent of the city’s total solar capacity. It’s difficult to translate this into kilowatt hours (kWh) because the amount of power produced depends on factors including how much sunlight the solar installations get and which way they are pointed.


Rank Name Street City State Description
1 Deutsche Bank 60 Wall St., New York, NY Manhattan New York The Deutsche Bank Building, at 60 Wall St., has a 122.4 kW solar installation. It is the largest in the borough of Manhattan.
2 Newmark Knight Frank 594 Broadway Manhattan New York Newmark Knight Frank, at 594 Broadway, has two solar installations that total 96 kW. Together, they are the second-largest solar installation in Manhattan.
3 The Visionaire 70 Little W St Manhattan New York The Visionaire, a residential building at 70 Little W. Street, has two installations totaling 95.9 kW. Together, they are the third largest solar installation in Manhattan.
4 150-160 Bennett Ave. 160 Bennett Ave Manhattan New York 150-160 Bennett Avenue is a commercial structure with a 79.92 kW solar installation, the fourth-largest in Manhattan.
5 21st Century LLC Columbus Ave Manhattan New York This residential building, owned by 21st Century Group LLC, has a 68 kW solar installation, the fifth-largest in Manhattan.
6 45 Rockefeller Center 45 Rockefeller Center Manhattan New York The commercial building at 45 Rockefeller Center has a 61.7 kW solar installation, the sixth-largest in Manhattan.
7 Kips Bay Towers Condominiums 330 E 33rd St Manhattan New York The Kips Bay Towers Condominiums, located at 330 East 33rd Street, have two solar installations that provide a total of 54.28 kW. Together, they are the seventh-largest solar installation in Manhattan.
8 Cabrini Terrace 900 W 190th St Manhattan New York Cabrini Terrace, a residential building, has a 50.54 kW solar installation, the eighth-largest in Manhattan.
9 The River Arts Apartments 159-00 Riverside Dr W Manhattan New York River Arts Apartments has a 49.68 kW solar installation, the ninth-largest in Manhattan.
10 Brandeis Educational Campus 145 W 84th St Manhattan New York The Brandeis Educational Campus has a 46.8 kW solar installation, the 10th-largest in Manhattan.

For more on solar power in New York City, visit Sustainable CUNY’s NYC Solar Page,’s page on solar panels, and ConEdison’s page on solar energy.


The Cool Trend in Global Warming

By Jelena Subotic

In all of the complexity of climate change, could an answer to one of the city’s problems really be black and white?

Yes, according to the folks at the White Roof Project, a NYC non-profit that’s “going green by painting white.” Founded in 2010, the organization recruits volunteers to paint NYC rooftops with a solar-reflective white coating, which reduces carbon emissions and cuts down on energy costs compared to the traditional black tar rooftop.

“Cool roofs,” as they’re called, along with solar reflective cars and cool color parking lots, are all types of reflective surfaces that help to reduce the effects of climate change. The basic premise behind this type of geoengineering is pretty simple. The darker a surface is, the more light it’s going to absorb. The lighter a surface is, the more light it’s going to deflect. So, the black tar roofs that are traditionally found throughout New York are actually trapping more heat and therefore requiring a lot more energy to keep these buildings cool during the sweltering NYC summers, hurting the environment and our wallets. Check out this EPA graphic from their Cool Roofs Compendium of Strategies to see this concept visual of this concept:

So can a rooftop paint job really make a difference? It can and it has, according to White Roof Project Board Member Heather B. James, “When we started this in 2010, we thought, ‘let’s just identify one building and coat the roof white,’ and we realized that it was an interesting, really easy, tangible change.”

After a whopping 100 volunteers signed up to coat that first 10,000 sq. ft. building, James and White Roof founder Juan Carlos realized that they were on to something good, “We were just floored, we thought wow this idea really has passion. It’s really popular. We need to keep this going.”

White Roof Project is one of the organizations that has participated in the NYC °CoolRoofs program, a collaboration between NYC Service and the NYC Department of Buildings that has helped to cool 5,768,347 square feet of NYC roofs.

NYC isn’t the only place participating in cool roofing, nor is it the first. According to the, U.S. Department of Energy, cool roofing has been around since the 1980s, but it wasn’t really until rolling blackouts in 2001 that researchers realized the value of cool roofing, “They found that cool roofing reduces peak demand for electricity, helping to lower costs and avoid power outages,” according to the DOE.

Although cool roofing is effective and growing in popularity around the world, it is particularly important in Urban Heat Islands like NYC. These heavily populated areas have a mass of dark surfaces, like rooftops and streets, and limited foliage, causing the area to be as much as 5-7 degrees warmer than surrounding rural and suburban areas, according to NASA.

If you’ve lived in the city for at least a year, you know not only how hot it gets in the summer, but also how cold it can get in the winter months. If the cool roofs keep heat from getting in, does that mean that it’s harder to heat up the buildings in the winter? Not quite, according to James, “There is a very slight heating penalty that comes along with having a white roof in the winter in the Northern Hemisphere but it’s negligible because it’s mostly indirect light that the buildings get from the sun,” adding, “in the winter the roofs are covered with snow, which prevents sunlight from hitting the roof either way.”

Unlike more expensive rooftop measures like solar panels or urban gardens, cool roofs are also dramatically cheaper to produce and maintain. Depending on the quality of the coating used, the price ranges from about 30 to 99 cents per square foot and for landlords offering low income housing, there is also a sponsorship program that takes care of some of the cost.

The coating lasts anywhere from 5-20 years and maintenance consists of spraying the roof down before the warmer months to get rid of the winter gunk.

A growing number of NYC buildings are cool roofing and the more, the better according to James, “When building share walls they share cooling impact. If you paint a 20 building row of white roofs, you’re going to maximize that benefit even more.”

Cheap, long lasting and effective, cool roofing proves to be another unique way that New Yorkers are successfully tackling climate change, this time one roof at a time.

New York City’s Underground Alternative Energy Secret

By Jelena Subotic

Photo credit: Metro Centric at

Photo credit: Metro Centric at

In 2012, Hurricane Sandy left over 2 million New York residents without power. But some, particularly in New York City, were luckier than others. The city may not have an abundance of wind turbines and solar power may not be the greatest option because of skyscrapers, but New York City does have one less-known energy source; steam.

In fact, NYC has the largest steam energy system in the world and when millions lost power during Hurricane Sandy, many NYC buildings still had power because of cogeneration, an alternative energy system derived from steam.

This video from the Pew Charitable Trusts sums up cogeneration pretty well. Basically, when power plants produce energy, a large portion of potential thermal energy is lost through smokestacks and cogeneration is the process of getting that lost energy back and reusing it.

To simplify, think of the process as a boiling pot of water. The water boils and steam rises. What happens to the steam? Nothing. It evaporates and it’s gone. What if you could somehow recapture this steam and use the energy to boil even more water? That’s exactly what happens with cogeneration.

Of Con Edison’s seven NYC plants, three use cogeneration to create steam and electricity for the city’s residents. Most older buildings have steam pipes that feed into radiators in each apartment. This completely eliminates the need for an individual boiler in each unit which saves room, energy, and money for residents.

In an article in Gotham Magazine, Con Edison representative Joe Petta compares the value of using steam over individual boilers to commuting, “Which is better for the environment, 50 people riding to the city on a bus or 50 people riding 50 different vehicles? The emissions from one bus will be less than the emissions for 50 cars.”

According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, most power plants have efficiency levels between 33 to 45%, but with the implementation of cogeneration this number can be boosted to 75% or more.

Sounds great, right? The benefits of cogeneration and specifically steam power in NYC are bountiful, but that doesn’t mean that the process doesn’t come without challenges. Unlike its alternative energy relatives, wind and solar, cogeneration is not a way to create new, sustainable energy, rather it is a system for conserving energy that would otherwise be lost. In other words, cogeneration is a way to conserve, not create alternative energy.

The seven steam plants in the city are successful in pumping out 10 million pounds of steam every winter day and heating NYC households, but creating more of these plants and converting old oil heating systems into steam is a difficult endeavor involving intense amounts of construction, and of course, lots of money.

Check out this graphic from Con Edison to see the complexity of what goes into maintaining the city’s steam distribution system:

The likelihood of expanding steam plants and implementing steam cogeneration is not the greatest because of this associated cost and complexity. But for the time being and with the resources available, the city is taking advantage of NYC’s steam secret to recycle energy and provide power to millions of residents, something that could keep the lights on should another disaster like Sandy strike again.


NYC’s 2014 climate change report explained

By Jelena Subotic

PlaNYC Progress Report 2014

New York City is globally known for many things, but until recently, The Big Apple was never known for its climate change policy. The bright lights, speeding cars, and energy sucking skyscrapers have, over the years, all contributed to a growing climate change problem – enough to get the entire city involved.

In 2007, under the leadership of then-Mayor Bloomberg, the city started PlaNYC, a program aimed at improving the lives of all New Yorkers and building a more environmentally sustainable city. Each year since then, the Mayor’s Office has put out a comprehensive report addressing both progress and future goals. The 2014 Progress Report was just released. Don’t have time to read the 100+ pages? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a rundown of what the city’s planning and how its doing on achieving past plans.

AltEnergyNYC’s overall grade for the PlaNYC 2014 progress: B+.


With over 8 million people living together in such a small land area, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, finding places to plant trees, and enhancing air quality are all difficult tasks, so for that we’ll give the city credit.


The major highlight of each year’s PlaNYC progress report is the 30 by 30 plan. In 2007, environmental experts and city officials created a goal of reducing GHG emissions to 30% below 2005 levels by the year 2030. In 7 years, GHG emissions in the city have been reduced by 19%, making the city nearly ⅔ of the way to the 30 by 30 goal, which now looks like it’ll be achieved by 2017 if the current efforts continue.


So accustomed to the concrete jungle, New Yorkers are happy to see as many trees as possible throughout the city, and in this area the city also does not disappoint. Since 2007, MillionTrees NYC, a partnership between PlaNYC, NYC Parks and the New York Restoration Project has planted over 840,000 trees, quite close to the goal to plant 1,000,000 trees by 2030.


Perhaps most impressive of all, NYC now has the cleanest air quality the city has had in the last 50 years. Due in large part to new policies regulating the way New Yorkers are allowed to heat their homes, sulfur dioxide emissions are down 69% and soot levels are lower, too, according to the report. This figure is expected to get even better as more buildings comply with the new heating regulations.


Even with the aforementioned successes, the city still has some major improvements to make particularly relating to solid waste, GHG emissions in landfills, and inconsistent achievements based on neighborhood location.


The percentage of waste diverted from landfills in 2013 was only 52%, meaning that just about half off all the city’s waste ended up in landfills, contributing to significant GHG emissions. The 2030 goal is to divert 75% of solid waste from landfills, and although there is still 16 years to go, 52% is not a satisfactory figure.


A large portion of this waste is food waste and with the huge number of restaurants in the city, GreeNYC was created to help lower GHG emissions in landfills by working with restaurants to waste less food. In 2013, about half of the 100 participating restaurants kept 50% of their food waste out of landfills. This is a good start, but with tens of thousands of restaurants in the city, according to the U.S. Census, having only 100 participants in the program with only a 50% success rate is not acceptable and needs to be increased in future years.


Lastly, the amount of carbon emissions throughout the city varied and created inconsistent figures based on GHG causing activity in different parts of the city. For example, more people drive uptown and in the outer boroughs, knowing this figure, the city should take more initiative to implement more programs in these areas especially as more residents move uptown.

There’s some good (and bad) news for the city here, but what does it all mean for the average New Yorker? Under the new plan, we’re breathing easier (we’re nationally ranked as having some of the cleanest air for a big city) and we’re seeing more trees, but we’re still filling up our landfills.

There are initiatives the city can take, and as more developers move into the city, these new regulations and policies will prove to be more important than ever, but it’s still up to each and every New Yorker to do their part within their own homes, not only for their wallets, but also for the greater environmental good of the city.

At AltEnergyNYC we’ll show you ways that New Yorkers are coming together to make the most of the city’s alternate energy capacity and hopefully inspire you to get involved, too.

Have a tip? A question? Feel free to reach out to us via email at, Twitter, or Facebook.


AltEnergyNYC Top Five for April 29, 2014

And we’re back with another @ALTEnergyNYC Top Five, today compiled by @LeifSkodnick!

1. @Buddy_Dek  tweeted out a link to a great story by about the effects of fracking Upstate New York’s Marcellus Shale Formation. (Yes, this is not directly NYC related, but the gas extracted from the Marcellus formation would be consumed here!)

2. @AlbanInspection tweeted about Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s plan to reduce energy consumption in New York State:

3.  @Rationalmiddle tweeted a link to William Pentland‘s article about a new appointment to the New York Public Service Commission:

4.  @WackieMackie wants to know why Chicago can’t be more like New York and increase solar production:

5. @RenewableSearch tweeted that BMW will be producing electric scooters – will we see them in New York City soon?

BONUS – @amzam brought gummies to class:


As always, if you have tips on alternative energy stories in New York City, hit us up on twitter or at!

AltEnergyNYC Top Five for Apr. 25, 2014

Hey, y’all! @LeifSkodnick here with today’s AltEnergyNYC Top Five!

1. The top tweet of the day goes to @BrianVibberts, who noted the 60th anniversary of the announcement of the first solar battery!

2. You may not think of alternative energy with a relic like the Brooklyn Bridge, but SolarisGlobal Energy does:

3. Utility Dive has an interesting piece on New York’s energy grid:

4. New York Energy Week tweeted a link to a release about the NYEW opening ceremony:

5. And  @PunkForPeace tweeted out a petition opposing the use of fracking in New York State’s energy policy:


Top Five Alternative Energy Tweets – Apr. 24, 2014

Hey AltEnergyNYC fans! Leif Skodnick here with the Top Five Alternative Energy Tweets for Thursday, Apr. 24.

1 . World Solar News (@worldsolarnews) tweeted about ConEdison (@ConEdison) installing solar panels on the roof of its headquarters at 4 Irving Place in Manhattan.

2. Solar Power Industry (@solarpowerb2b) tweeted a piece from GreenTechMedia about the MTA (@MTA) using Vanadium batteries.

3. @SolarPowerJohn tweeted about a solar-powered plane and green propulsion:

4. MacKay Miller reports about New York State reviewing the regulatory framework of the energy industry:

5. @PVSolarReport tweeted that Kyocera will help New York State develop solar photovoltaic projects through a tax equity partnership:

As always, check back with us for New York City-related alternative energy news!


BioDiesel In New York City: An AltEnergyNYC Explainer


By Leif Skodnick

April 15, 2014

[Biodiesel] River take my mind/Don’t let [used cooking oil] torture me.” – Willie Nelson (sort of)

If you’ve read anything about alternative fuels, you probably have heard of biodiesel, an alternative to petroleum-based diesel fuel that can be produced from cooking oil. Got questions? AltEnergyNYC has answers!

So what exactly is Biodiesel?

The simple answer: biodiesel is a fuel made mostly from plant oils that can be burned for energy. But it’s actually more complex than that. According to the National Biodiesel Board’s website,

“Biodiesel is a renewable, clean-burning diesel replacement that is reducing U.S. dependence on foreign petroleum, creating jobs and improving the environment. Made from a diverse mix of feedstocks including recycled cooking oil, soybean oil, and animal fats, it is the first and only EPA-designated Advanced Biofuel in commercial-scale production across the country and the first to reach 1 billion gallons of annual production. Meeting strict technical fuel quality and engine performance specifications, it can be used in existing diesel engines without modification and is covered by all major engine manufacturers’ warranties, most often in blends of up to 5 percent or 20 percent biodiesel.”

Kooky – so how is it made?

Basically, a big load of oil is put in a tank, some chemicals are added, there’s a reaction that scientists call transesterification, and you end up with biodiesel and byproducts. Goshen College’s chemistry department website has a page that explains the chemistry pretty well:

“Vegetable oil, like biodiesel, belongs to a category of compounds called esters. Therefore, converting vegetable oil into biodiesel is called atransesterification reaction. Doing this reaction requires using methanol (shown in green), which causes the red bonds in the structure below to break. This breaks off the blue section, like a backbone on the molecule, which becomes glycerol.”

So it replaces regular diesel fuel?

Sort of. Most biodiesel is mixed with regular diesel fuel before it can be pumped into a tank to fuel a diesel engine. To be used in diesel engines, biodiesel must comply with the ASTM International standard D6751-12, titled “Standard Specification for Biodiesel Fuel Blend Stock (B100) for Middle Distillate Fuels.” If you want to read all the technical stats that define biodiesel, visit ASTM’s website which contains standard D6751-12.

How do I know if the diesel I’m buying contains biodiesel?

That’s pretty easy. If they fuel you’re buying contains biodiesel, the pump will show how much biodiesel is in the fuel. Look for a sticker that says “Bx” – where x is a number between one and 100, which is the percentage of biodiesel in the fuel. Generally, you won’t see B100 at the pump, but you will see B20 fairly commonly. For more on the specifications of B100 and B6-B20, visit the U.S. Deparment of Energy’s Alternative Energy Data Center.

Can it be used for things other than diesel fuel?

Yes. In fact, since 2010, New York City has required that home heating oil used in the city contain at least 2 percent biodiesel. The fuel, called BioHeat, burns cleaner than regular heating oil due to its low sulfur content. The industry trade group New York Oil Heating Association has a page devoted to BioHeat.

Is biodiesel is easily available in the city?

Yes. In fact, Tri-State Biodiesel, located in Hunts Point, produces and sells biodiesel for the metropolitan area. The company collects used cooking oil, processes it into biodiesel, and delivers it to customers in the Bronx, Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn.

Failed mayoral candidate and supermarket magnate John Catsimatidis is building a biodiesel refinery in Greenpoint. His company, United Biofuels, bought the unfinished plant out of bankruptcy. According to The New York World, the plant could produce as much as 50 million gallons of biodiesel each year.

So what does Willie Nelson have to do with this?

Shotgun Willie is a big proponent of biodiesel. He markets Biowillie, his own brand of biodiesel. Nelson uses biodiesel to fuel his famous tour bus, the Honeysuckle Rose, each time he goes on the road again.