Story and photos by Gregg McQueen
Officials recently unveiled a new solar power installation that aims to provide Bronx residents and businesses with clean energy while reducing energy bills.
The project is part of a movement known as “community solar,” which allows users to tap into energy from solar farms without installing panels on their own building.
The new installation, placed on the roof of a W.B. Mason warehouse at 1160 Commerce Avenue, features 3,000 solar panels that can power up to 145 homes.
It was created by OnForce Solar, a company that’s been ramping up community solar projects throughout the city. The Commerce Avenue solar farm is the third Bronx site OnForce Solar has opened since April.
So far, several hundred customers have signed up, company officials said.
On September 19, OnForce officials and solar power advocates joined Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. to cut the ribbon at the new solar installation.
Charles Feit, Chief Executive Officer of OnForce Solar, said that solar power saves users, on average, 10 percent per month on their energy bill.
He added that his company is employing Bronx residents to install the solar farms.
“It’s good for everyone, it’s coming back into the economy,” he said.
Díaz said the solar farms would help protect the environment and improve the health of borough residents, as the cleaner energy would help reduce asthma and respiratory illnesses.
“We want to make sure that as we move forward that we can have corporations and companies and businesses and development with not only solar panels but with more green equipment and energy,” he said.
The 3,000 panels make the farm the largest community solar project in the borough.
Díaz expressed support for the Million Solar Strong Campaign, a movement to increase the use of solar power in New York State, with the goal of powering one million New York households with solar energy by 2023.
Travis Tench, Director of Community Outreach at PowerMarket, touted community solar as a way for New York City apartment renters to participate in solar energy, as installing panels on buildings can be costly and typically can only be done by building or homeowners.
“By helping make projects like this one successful, we include all the people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to clean, locally produced electricity,” he stated. “And the way we get to a sustainable energy system and future is by including everyone.”
Tench said that the savings from community solar can assist low-income residents with paying energy bills.
According to a 2015 study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 31 percent of U.S. households reported facing a challenge in paying energy bills, or must decide between paying for energy or other essentials like food or medicine.
PowerMarket has partnered with OnForce Solar to do community outreach and help sign up residential customers.
Tench explained that signing up for community solar power is simple, with no equipment or enrollment fees required. However, subscribers must be Con Edison customers to participate.
“Signing up is just like signing up for cable or internet,” he remarked. “It’s all done online and you create an account.”
The solar farm supplies energy into Con Edison’s local power grid. Community solar subscribers pay Con Edison as they normally would, but receive a credit on each month’s bill for the solar power.
“There are few things that seem less under your control than your energy supply, but community solar projects like this one is a way that you can take things into your own hands,” said John Opperman, Executive Director at Earth Day Initiative. “By signing up for a project like this, you get to be part of the solution, and you save money.”
by Patrick Rocchio, Photos by Kasey Rodriguez
A major new community solar farm is offering the public energy savings on their utility bills.
Port Morris-based OnForce Solar cut a ribbon officially opening a 3,000 panel, 1.1 megawatt community solar farm atop 1160 Commerce Avenue that is one of several coming online in the borough allowing the public to sign up to receive power – and potentially reduce their electric bill.
The ceremony took place on Wednesday, September 19 and coincided with its campaign called Million Solar Strong that advocates for the goal of powering a million households, including 100,000 low income units, with solar power in New York state by 2023.
The community solar farms are being developed as part of an initiative from the New York Public Service Commission, said Brooke Ruggiero of OnForce Solar.
“Community solar farms are different in that several households, small businesses, schools, churches and renters are signing up to get energy,” said Ruggiero.
In the past, only residents who owned homes with roofs that were suitable to have solar panels on them could benefit from solar energy savings, but now Bronxites can sign up to receive a portion of the energy generated from the farms being developed around the borough, said Ruggiero.
Residents who are interested in becoming a subscriber to other OnForce Solar farms, which should be coming online in the next several months, can get more information and sign up at onforcesolar.com.
About 20% of the energy generated from such farms is set aside for low to moderate income ratepayers, including those who are renters, said Ruggiero.
Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. was on hand for the ribbon cutting and has joined the Million Strong Campaign, along with other elected officials, industry and environmental leaders, and community organizations.
Diaz said that the ‘green economy’ is creating the jobs of the future and that it is important that New York be at the forefront of a shift to a ‘green-collar’ economy.
“As we move away from fossil fuels, we must be prepared to replace traditional fuels with cleaner, renewable energy sources like solar,” said Diaz, who added that with “smart planning and a true commitment at all levels of government, we can reach the goal of powering one million households with solar energy in the next five years.”
Councilman Ritchie Torres said in a statement that clean energy like solar power could mitigate the effects of climate change evidenced in more extreme weather and severe storms.
“Building enough solar to power a million homes here in New York by 2023 is a good first step,” stated Torres, adding that he has seen negative health outcomes in communities where there is a “dirty energy system.”
Aside from altruism, there are practical reasons to sign up to be a member of a community solar farm.
Subscribers receive a discount ranging from eight to 12 percent on their electric bill from OnForce Solar, depending on the duration of the subscription, said Ruggiero.
THE BRONX -
A new solar program in the Bronx is aiming to help residents save money on their electric bill.
The Community Solar Program allows homeowners, churches, small business and renters to switch to natural energy. However, residents need to be a Con Edison customer to participate in the program.
OnForce Solar installs the panels and partners with Con Edison. Officials say about 1,500 solar panels were recently installed to power more than 100 households across the borough.
The idea is to level the playing field for anybody to participate in solar, whether you have a big house, apartment or no matter where you live, says Charles Feit, of OnForce Solar.
VIDEO: New solar program aims to help Bronx residents save money
Resident Steve Defrank says he pays about $300 a month during the summer and is looking into the program to lower the cost of his electric bill.
The old way doesn't work anymore, so this is a brand-new way I can participate without buying all the equipment, he says.
OnForce Solar officials say a dozen more solar sites will be installed throughout the Bronx in September.
Join the solar community! On Thursday, August 23rd, come have pizza, drinks, and learn about community solar, an innovative model that's making solar power more accessible and affordable in NYC and across the country. You'll hear from clean energy industry experts from Sustainable CUNY, PowerMarket, and The Mayor’s Office of Sustainability.
If you’re already a community solar subscriber, come connect with other people in the network. If you’re not, learn how it works and see if community solar is right for you. (If you want to support clean energy and don’t mind saving money each month, then it probably is).
Bill Oberkehr, NYC Solar Ombudsman,
Sustainable CUNY Ellie Kahn, Policy Analyst, NYC Mayor's Office of Sustainability
Conversation moderated by Caroline Thompson, Business Development Analyst at PowerMarket.
July’s featured startup - PowerMarket PowerMarket is a cleantech startup based in Downtown Brooklyn whose goal is to power the community by creating technology specializing in the production of clean, affordable energy. We talked to Travis Tench, Director of Outreach for the company to learn more about its cleantech initiatives and where the company is headed: July 06, 2018
Tell us about PowerMarket.
PowerMarket is a Brooklyn-based cleantech startup committed to making clean energy more accessible, affordable, and ubiquitous. We do this by creating software to manage shared renewable projects, such as community solar. We work with big utilities (such as ConEd) and an array of solar developers to give them the tools and services they need to make these projects run smoothly and get more clean energy on the grid. We also work with a variety of environmental advocacy and community groups to do outreach and education about the energy transition we’re in the midst of. DBP:
What exactly is community solar and why does it matter?
Community solar is the sharing economy for solar. Instead of buying panels and putting them on your roof, you subscribe to a piece of a large array built in your area. It costs you nothing to join, you save money on electricity, and you support new local solar projects. The community solar model matters because it includes everyone. There are a lot of reasons that most people can’t traditionally “go solar”— upfront costs, having a shaded roof, being renters—but community solar opens renewable energy to people who would have previously been excluded. It’s also important because we’re at a critical point in history where we have to change the way in which we get our energy and shift away from fossil fuels - community solar allows it to happen much faster. DBP:
Who are your customers and what is your competitive offering to them?
Our customers are community solar subscribers, utility companies, and renewable energy (mostly solar) project developers. Our community solar subscribers are homeowners, renters, small businesses, and places of worship throughout the country who want to do their part to help speed up our transition to renewable energy, and who also want save a little money on electricity. We make it easy for people to join projects and save them money. For utilities and developers, we offer turnkey software solutions so that they can quickly and easily create shared renewable projects. We manage projects for them on an ongoing basis, customize the suite of services for their specific needs, and handle things like credit allocation and billing. DBP:
Why did you choose to start your business in Brooklyn, and, can you speak to why Brooklyn is a great place for a startup to do business? TT:
Part of the reason is that most of us live in Brooklyn. But the reason many of us live in Brooklyn is because so much is happening here. It’s a hotspot for cleantech and innovation (and music, food, art, etc). We’ve also been very fortunate to have been one of the companies chosen to go through Urban Future Lab’s incubator program, which is based right in downtown Brooklyn, in the Metrotech Center. That’s been an incredible launchpad for us as a company. DBP:
What, if any, challenges do you face as a cleantech company in a fossil-fuel dominated industry? How do you see the cleantech / green energy industry growing in the future? TT:
As with anything new, there’s some inertia to overcome and some resistance to change in the industry. For most of us, we haven’t really had to think about how we get our electricity, and haven’t had the option to make choices around that. I think the biggest challenge is increasing awareness that people do have a choice now and helping people get up to speed on how it all works. Fortunately, we like talking about energy, so we have our work cut out for us.
The cleantech industry is growing fast and there are new companies starting all the time. I see things really taking off in the next couple years for community solar. Large scale storage will also play a critical role in getting renewable energy to the levels we need to power our cities. There are some big opportunities in building efficiency and IOT home automation so that we’re smarter about the way we use the energy we create. Fortunately, in addition to reducing emissions and making better use of our resources, these measures also save people money, which makes it that much easier to adopt. DBP:
What’s next for PowerMarket?
A lot more community solar. We’re moving soon too! The company has tripled in size over the last couple of years, and we’re outgrowing our office space in the Metrotech center. I expect that we’ll have some company outings to some of the amazing outdoor concerts here in Brooklyn over the summer as well. DBP:
Sounds great! How do I get involved or sign up?
I’m so glad you asked! We happen to have a few projects right here in the city that are open for enrollment. You can head to www.thepowermarket.com and choose a project near you, or give us a call at 212-381-6097 and we’ll help you get started.
You can learn more about PowerMarket
For Earth Day, environmental activists are encouraging people to look into community solar projects, which gives the benefits of solar energy without solar panels on your own roof.
Community solar is a model that lets you get the benefits (both economic and environmental) of solar panels, without actually installing them on your roof. The whole concept, said Nick Baudouin, co-founder of community solar software company PowerMarket, is "solar for all."
"It's for everyone, not just everyone who can check off a lot of boxes," like previous requirements of home ownership, an in-the-thousands installation payment, a credit check and so on, he said. "I live in a city, in an apartment, and clearly I can’t put solar on my roof, but I can still be part of solar and be part of the sharing economy."
Read the full article here: https://www.metro.us/news/the-big-stories/community-solar-renewable-energy-to-everyone
A new online platform from a Brooklyn-based startup is looking to offer Westchester customers a chance at tapping into power produced by community solar projects, which are new to New York but expected to grow quickly. The PowerMarket, which launched in February, essentially creates a marketplace for people interested in buying the solar power produced by community solar arrays.
The PowerMarket will provide southern New York businesses and homeowners the ability to participate in community solar for the first time, all while providing clean, locally sourced electricity to their community.
BROOKLYN, New York - The PowerMarket, a platform and marketplace that allows households in the Greater New York City Area to participate in local community solar projects, announces the first ever project to go live in ConEdison service territory. Community solar allows individuals and businesses the ability to share in the benefits of solar with no upfront cost and without installing panels on their roof.
Over thirty households in Westchester have already signed up. "Through the PowerMarket, people save money on their monthly electricity bill while supporting renewable energy development in their communities," says Eric Dahnke, CEO and Founder of the PowerMarket. Customers can expect to see the benefits of participation in the project in March 2017.
The PowerMarket is a product from ProjectEconomics Inc, a community solar solution provider and member of ACRE at the Urban Future Lab (UFL) at the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. ACRE is New York City’s business incubator for smart cities, smart grid, and clean energy. UFL hosts several programs focused on educational, policy, and market solutions to the issues of sustainability.
"Initiatives such as the PowerMarket will help New York continue to be a place for pioneering energy solutions and a leader in the clean energy sector," said Pat Sapinsley, managing director of cleantech initiatives at the UFL. "The optimization of renewable energy distribution systems such as community solar will help reduce dependence on fossil fuels, remove barriers to renewable energy support and allow all individuals access to clean and local solar power.
The PowerMarket allows households and business to participate in local community solar projects. We provide customer acquisition, management and billing solutions for solar developers, community groups, and municipalities looking to develop community solar projects in their communities. The PowerMarket is a product of ProjectEconmics Inc, a provider of community solar solutions. They are based out of ACRE at the Urban Future Lab.