Op-Ed | NYC’s summer of solar shines bright for buildings to go green

Kizzy Charles-Guzman

Summertime in New York is really hot. Whether it’s trips to our beaches, a movie, visiting a cooling center, or stopping by an ice cream truck, New Yorkers are creative about finding ways to beat the heat. It’s getting harder and harder to find relief, though. Our built environment and emissions from burning fossil fuels are causing the planet’s average temperature to rise each year, stressing our planet and our health.

Those extra degrees are already having devastating effects on our city’s infrastructure, impacting our most vulnerable residents. Flooded streets and subway lines, like we saw during Hurricane Ida last year, are becoming more common as storms intensify. The economic and health effects are even worse in neighborhoods where people are already struggling to afford food, healthcare, and housing, and suffer from higher rates of health conditions like lung or heart disease. Heat waves, which we endure every summer, can be deadly to our neighbors because not everyone has air conditioning, which can be life-saving medical equipment.

We must get creative to keep our city thriving and our residents safe as the climate changes. That is why we launched “NYC’s Summer of Solar” through our NYC Accelerator program. NYC Accelerator provides free assistance to any building decision maker who wants to make a change in their energy usage. It will help boards, management companies, supers, owners, and even residents navigate towards options that are financially feasible so they can improve their energy performance.

Our biggest challenge—and our biggest opportunity—to reduce NYC’s carbon emissions are our million-plus buildings. Our city’s buildings produce nearly 70 percent of our toxic emissions that come from fossil fuels. An important part of phasing out the use of polluting fuels like oil and gas is using more solar energy to power our buildings.

When building owners and operators add solar panels they’re improving their building’s efficiency, while also supporting green jobs and our economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. For a long time, there has been a perception that solar power isn’t affordable or accessible. The truth is, there has never been a better—or more important time—to go solar.

Earlier this summer, Mayor Eric Adams unveiled his ‘Zoning for Zero Carbon’ vision as part of his plan for the five boroughs to become a more inclusive and equitable “City of Yes.” This zoning change will make it easier to meet our carbon reduction and energy efficiency goals by allowing for more rooftop coverage for solar panels and removing obstacles to deploy new clean energy storage and electric vehicle charging. The zoning change will also help eliminate barriers to the electrification of building systems—like adding heat pumps or upgrading to efficient heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems.

Recently adopted legislation also requires all new buildings in NYC—including those undergoing major roof renovations—have a green roof, solar panels, or a combination of the two. From a financial standpoint, there has never been a better time in NYC’s history to go solar. Current rebate levels are six times higher than ever before. Visit https://Accelerator.NYC/Solar for details on all of the City, State and Federal tax credits that are available.

From the benefits to our environment, to the health of our neighbors, to the advantages that come with making the prudent changes needed, acting now is a win-win for everyone. Our window to create the change we need is dwindling. The time to act is now.

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