December 7, 2022
A New Model for Equitably Shared Solar Energy Emerges in New York
“The desire for infinite and limitless energy seems, in many ways, too deeply intertwined with capitalist obsessions with limitless growth that have ignored the needs of the many in favor of serving the greed of the few,” write members of the After Oil Collective in their 2022 manifesto Solarities: Seeking Energy Justice (University of Minnesota Press, 2022). The collective is just one group of radical thinkers in the United States who are engaging the critical need for energy justice and a just transition away from fossil fuels on a local level.
Another group that After Oil highlights in its book is UPROSE, the oldest Latino community-based organization in Brooklyn, New York. Through its Sunset Park Solar campaign, UPROSE is bringing the first community solar cooperative to New York City. The project will allow more than 200 households and businesses to share a solar energy system without the hassle of installing PV panels on their own roofs. Rather, Sunset Park Solar’s 685-kilowatt energy system will be installed on the roof of Brooklyn Army Terminal, an industrial campus owned and managed by the New York City Economic Development Corporation (NYCEDC). That agency awarded the roof lease in 2018 to a project team consisting of UPROSE, Solar One, Co-op Power, 770 Electric Corp., and Resonant Energy. The system itself will be owned and managed by Co-op Power’s New York City Community Energy Co-op (NYC CEC) in partnership with UPROSE.
In addition to utility bill savings (an estimated $20 per month for subscribers, with $1.34 million of lifetime net savings), subscribers will become members of NYC CEC, where they will have a vote in how the cooperative invests resources, including operating profits. Those profits can then be reinvested in additional solar projects throughout the city or distributed to members as dividends.
Community solar projects like this one create a more equitable access to the benefits of clean energy in several ways: chiefly, by helping families and small businesses save money on electricity bills; but also by providing local employment to residents, mitigating heat island effects in under-resourced neighborhoods, and increasing overall energy resilience for vulnerable communities.
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