STATEN ISLAND, NY — If your business naturally benefits from an abundance of sunlight, features a flat, spacious roof, or your property contains a wealth of clear, open space, the Staten Island Economic Development Corporation (SIEDC) wants to connect. A new solar panel installation program might be a good match for your enterprise and the community.
“The criteria for this initiative is pretty straightforward: Priority sites include structures that have a large, flat surface to help reflect the sun, or possibly a spacious parking lot that might need overhead,” noted Niles French, first vice president of projects for the SIEDC. “We’ve already looked into a handful of sites that meet these conditions, but we are absolutely looking for more.”
Part of a partnership with Crauderueff Solar and OYA Solar, two companies with a strong track record of developing solar projects across North America, the project aims to community solar and battery storage installations throughout the borough, with a specific focus on disadvantaged neighborhoods. The ultimate goal? A just transition to renewable energy resulting in at least 2 megawatts (MW) of community solar and 100 low-to-median income (LMI) subscribers on Staten Island.
“We are pleased to contribute to SIEDC’s mission, supporting responsible and sustainable development for underserved communities in Staten Island,” says Manish Nayar, founder and CEO at OYA Solar. “OYA Solar is looking forward to developing these solar projects, further reinforcing our commitment to provide equitable access to local, clean and cost-saving energy for businesses and low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.”
The New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) recently provided a $125,000 grant in support for this project through its Affordable Solar and Storage Predevelopment and Technical Assistance Program, which aim at address barriers to solar and energy storage installations benefiting LMI households not served by traditional onsite residential solar.
Five primary outcomes are expected from the collaboration:
— A borough-wide Master Plan opportunity analysis, resulting in the creation of an inventory of existing solar and storage sites, and a survey of SIEDC members and large property owners to establish a baseline and identify potential early adopters of solar energy.
— Education and capacity-building of at least 50 property owners around the borough, setting the stage for the first 2MW of solar leases, and many additional MW to be developed borough-wide.
— Securing 2MW of lease commitments and developing partnerships with project lenders and investors for at least one site on Staten Island.
— Development of community-based solar opportunities for LMI areas, including multiple affordable housing providers, that share information and options available to those communities.
— A final Roadmap report, as final recommendations added to the Master Plan, to replicate and scale community solar + storage + LMI subscriptions borough-wide.
It began in February and should take approximately one year to complete. The topic will be more fully discussed at SIEDC’s “Energy Summit,” which is planned for late 2022. Commercial properties that have already signed up for the initiative include Rab’s Country Lanes and Island Charter. Zion Lutheran Church will also be part of the program.
French said the benefits for participating businesses are many, including lowered utility rates and increased property value. Inclusion in such a program will also enable building owners to stay ahead of the NYC Carbon Emissions Bill — Local Law 97 — that will require large commercial buildings in New York to meet carbon emissions limits by 2024 or pay fines.
“Not every site is perfect or eligible, but we’re encouraging business owners to reach out so we could do a soft analysis,” French concluded. “We can identify the challenges — such as lack of sunlight due to a canopy of trees — and see if they can be overcome. We are big advocates of carbonization and want to get folks focused on more than one resiliency plan.”