All across Brooklyn, from East New York to the East River, there has been a large investment in clean energy in the past few years. Solar panels are appearing everywhere, on buildings large and small, from block-wide industrial plants to single-lot row houses. These panels tie into the buildings’ power systems, and the energy they produce replaces that of their power company, a win-win for the panel owners in terms of saving both energy and money.
The use of solar power in Brooklyn isn’t exactly new. The industrial Gowanus neighborhood has many low industrial buildings with large, flat roofs under wide open sky, the perfect place for an array of solar panels, and traversing the Gowanus Canal along the lofty Culver Line subway overpass you can see multiple buildings with roofs filled with them, many of which have been in place for years. These arrays provide power to the buildings on which they sit, and sometimes to other, nearby buildings. Much of the Whole Foods parking lot on Third Street is covered with panels, and the roofs of Dyke’s Lumber on 6th Street, Extra-Space Storage on Third Avenue at the foot of First Street, Architectural Grille on Second Avenue across from Seventh Street, and behind that the roof above Interiors Palace at the edge of the canal all provide those buildings with at least some if not all their power requirements. And that’s not a complete list.
In Park Slope, on Windsor Place, a small-scale array provides power for a group of private homes. Apartment buildings across Brooklyn, in Sunset Park, Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, Gravesend, and elsewhere all get their power from rooftop solar arrays.
This is all very positive, but what about those who rent, those with no rooftops, with no legal rights to mount solar panels wherever they wish? How can we all participate in the green revolution and save some money in the process?
Recently, the East New York Community Farm came online. A community farm is a subscriber-based solar array that feeds into the state power grid, and the power sent to the giant utilities like Con Edison, LIPA, and PSEG is sold for power credits that are distributed to the community farm’s subscribers and deducted from the electric bill of those subscribers, a process with the technical term Net Metering. You end up paying two electric bills per month, one to your traditional provider and one to your community farm, but the combined total is (or should be) less than your former single payment.
The East New York farm, the first solar community farm in the city, can generate 1.2 megawatts of power at any time, which can provide electricity to about 100 homes.
There are now several available solar farms up and running in Brooklyn, and soon, the Carroll Street Community Farm will be joining them, possibly before the end of the summer. Con Edison is expected to give the Carroll Street farm a final okay to feed its grid within weeks. It’s just another solar-powered day in Gowanus, and from what we’ve read, the farm is already fully subscribed. The financiers of the East New York project anticipate more to come soon, and not just in Brooklyn. There are community farms open across the city, and it’s all just beginning.
If you’re ready to join the green revolution and save yourself some green in the process, you can find a community farm near you here. Do your due diligence to be sure you’ll get the deal you want before signing on. Scroll down to the FAQ section on that page to begin your research.