Bringing Clean Energy and Savings to NYCHA Residents
Largest community solar project in New York City completes installation of 1.8 megawatts of solar arrays across 27 rooftops, with NYCHA residents helping to power the solar team
April 22, 2021
NEW YORK – Today, the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) announced substantial completion of 1.8 megawatts of rooftop solar arrays on 27 buildings across Queensbridge North and Queensbridge South Houses, the largest public housing project in the country. This solar installation is the first to reach completion as part of NYCHA’s solar program, and is a key component of the NYCHA Sustainability Agenda commitment to host 25 megawatts of solar power by 2025, which will make it the largest community shared solar project in New York City.
A solar developer team led by Bright Power, Sol Purpose, and Sunwealth Power worked with the Authority to design, install, and maintain the solar systems. NYCHA will receive $1.3 million in lease revenue over the next 20 years. As a part of this project, a cohort of NYCHA residents have been trained in solar installation and have received their OSHA certification. The project team has hired 13 NYCHA residents and community members as full-time installation employees for this project, with opportunities for advancement and permanent employment.
“NYCHA roofs are a valuable asset to drive equitable access to solar energy, raise much-needed revenue and provide inspiring workforce development opportunities for our residents to join the green jobs economy,” said NYCHA Chair & CEO Gregory Russ. “This project is one of many that speak to the Authority’s necessary work around climate resiliency and sustainability.”
“Through its Renew300 initiative, HUD has advanced renewable energy deployment in affordable housing by providing training and technical assistance to NYCHA and other selected affordable housing providers. This innovative project at Queensbridge Houses is a great step toward completing NYCHA’s commitment to host 25 megawatts of solar power by 2025,” said Stephen Murphy, HUD Deputy Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. “NYCHA is not only generating additional revenue from leasing its rooftop space for solar, it’s also providing new job opportunities for residents and using a portion of the profits to fund scholarships for low and moderate-income New Yorkers. HUD looks forward to the completion of the remaining projects.”
“By harnessing both the power of renewable energy, and the talents of its residents to foster the workforce of the future, NYCHA is showing how we deliver a just transition to a green economy,” said Ben Furnas, Director, NYC Mayor’s Office of Sustainability. “We thank NYCHA for their continued leadership in advancing a cleaner and healthier city for all New Yorkers.”
“NYSERDA is pleased to have provided technical assistance and support to assist NYCHA in securing the largest solar procurement in its history, while implementing workforce training for affordable housing residents, which supports the State’s climate and clean energy agenda to deploy six gigawatts of solar energy by the end of 2025, as outlined in the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act,” said Doreen Harris, the President and CEO of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. “These projects not only expand access to solar energy to low- to moderate- income residents, but provide an avenue for employment that supports an equitable transition to a clean energy economy.”
“As the nation’s largest public urban university, the City University of New York is proud to be a long-time partner of NYCHA and other City agencies, helping them make the transition to clean energy and mitigating the effects of climate change,” said CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez. “CUNY is committed to ensuring that renewable energy solutions, such as solar energy, are rooted in environmental justice, create green energy jobs for New York’s diverse populations, and empower our city and region’s post-pandemic economy.”
“We’re proud to be driving this project, innovating at the fore of community solar on public housing, and providing renewable energy and direct social benefits to the NYCHA community,” said Sol Purpose CEO, Matt Russotti. “We hope New York, the country, and beyond see the value of these projects and imitate this work, converting underutilized public assets into economic and social drivers for positive change. We’re excited to be working with the amazing NYCHA team and our great partners in making this innovative project a reality.”
“Bright Power is proud to bring clean, renewable energy to NYCHA’s Queensbridge Houses. The 1.8 MW of solar will benefit NYCHA and the surrounding community through lease revenue and lower electricity rates,” said Jeffrey Perlman, CEO and Founder of Bright Power, Inc.
“Community solar is unique in its ability for those unable to install solar on their roofs to reap the benefits of solar. For us, one of the most significant wins of this project is the continuation of our efforts to reduce carbon emissions for all New Yorkers.”
“The NYCHA Queensbridge project provides a case study for how we can use clean energy investment to strengthen our local economies and reduce inequality,” says Jon Abe, CEO of Sunwealth. “When we invest with those objectives in mind, community-based solar projects create savings and green jobs for community residents, revenues for local solar installers, and steady income for anchor institutions like NYCHA, all while strengthening the overall resiliency of our infrastructure. We are proud to collaborate with NYCHA and our other project partners to invest in a clean energy future that benefits all communities.”
The electricity generated from these systems will provide a discounted electricity rate for approximately 470 New York City households. A portion of this power will be reserved for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers, including NYCHA residents who pay their own electric bills. The project will also dedicate a portion of its profits to fund scholarships for low- and moderate-income New Yorkers.
As part of the HUD Renew300 program and the NYCHA Sustainability Agenda, NYCHA has committed to host 25 megawatts of solar power on its property by 2025. The energy produced by these installations will also contribute to meeting Mayor Bill de Blasio’s climate change goals, including reducing greenhouse gases by at least 80 percent by 2050.
NYCHA has also been supported in the development of this program by a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s Affordable Solar and Storage Predevelopment and Technical Assistance Program – which provides grants to affordable housing providers to address the early-stage development challenges of projects targeting low- and moderate-income households. The grant NYCHA received funded technical assistance from Sustainable CUNY and ICF on topics such as proposal evaluation, installation best practices, subscriber outreach, and stakeholder engagement.
Sustainable CUNY leads the NYC Solar Ombudsman program on behalf of the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability and has worked with City agencies since 2006 to streamline integrating solar and storage into the grid in support of NYC’s renewable energy goals. Sustainable CUNY provided additional technical assistance by assessing the solar potential of NYCHA’s rooftops utilizing the CUNY-built New York Solar Map and Portal (nysolarmap.com).
In 2018, NYCHA awarded one of its first opportunities for solar development on NYCHA-managed property to a team led by Bright Power, Inc. and Sol Purpose. Bright Power is a local firm with extensive experience developing solar on multifamily affordable housing in New York City (including solar on NYCHA’s first RAD conversion at Ocean Bay-Bayside). Bright Power has designed and led construction of these systems.
Sol Purpose is a New York-based firm that was founded to support the Bard Prison Initiative, and which has been managing all aspects of this project. Bright Power and Sol Purpose have also brought on Sunwealth Power, who is financing the system and will own and operate the arrays long-term.
Additional team members include Solar One and Green City Force, who have assisted in the training and hiring of NYCHA residents; Solstice and Arcadia, who are providing customer subscription and outreach; and Venture Solar, who has been contracted to carry out the installation of the systems.
The electricity generated by the solar arrays, also known as “community shared solar,” will belong not to NYCHA, but to residents and neighbors who subscribe to the service. Community solar arrays allow for renters who do not own their own roof space (or residents whose own roof space is not suitable for solar) to access the benefits of low-cost solar power.
The major completion of solar array systems at Queensbridge Houses is one of several initiatives the Authority has worked to develop as part of its Sustainability Agenda, which is a long-term roadmap for blunting the impact of climate change on NYCHA’s portfolio and residents. Other key initiatives include the Authority’s work with the city to meet the target of 80 percent in carbon reduction by 2050; ongoing capital work to provide storm surge protections (and other design improvements) for NYCHA campuses affected by Hurricane Sandy; and connecting NYCHA residents to green jobs ranging from urban forestry to horticulture.
About the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)
The New York City Housing Authority (“NYCHA” or the “Authority”) provides affordable housing to 380,299 authorized residents in over 177,611 apartments within 335 housing developments. NYCHA serves 359,593 authorized residents in over 168,100 apartments within 285 housing developments through the conventional public housing program (Section 9) and 20,706 authorized residents in 9,511 units within 50 developments that were converted to PACT/RAD. Through federal rent subsidies (Section 8 Leased Housing Program), NYCHA also assists approximately 77,663 families in locating and renting units. In addition, NYCHA facilitates access to social services through a variety of programs. For more information, visit www.nyc.gov/nycha, and for regular updates on NYCHA news and services, connect with us via www.facebook.com/NYCHA and www.twitter.com/NYCHA.
Solstice is a mission-driven organization dedicated to bringing affordable solar power to the 80% of Americans who cannot install a rooftop system. Solstice conducts comprehensive marketing campaigns to educate communities about community solar projects in their area, partnering with trusted local organizations to distribute community solar to their membership, conducting outreach efforts and managing the customer experience. For more information on Solstice, please visit our LinkedIn page, Twitter feed or www.solstice.us.