A Great Big City

City Proposes Leasing NYCHA Roofs for Solar Installations

File_000 (46)
File_000 (46) via Wilson Rivera on Flickr

The plan identifies public housing suitable for solar panels and requests bids from installers.

As part of a general plan to adhere to Paris Accord climate goals, the city has laid out an eight-year plan to bring solar panels to NYCHA houses, but the deal sounds like a better deal for solar installers.

Rather than purchase solar panels and maintain the systems on NYCHA property, the city proposes leasing roofs and canopies over parking lots for a developer to "install, operate and maintain the solar systems and sell the power to low to moderate-income residents throughout the city." Much like residential solar leasing, this sounds like a plan where the property does not own or have responsibility for the panels and the installer sells any electricity back to the power grid. The installer collects tax benefits and keeps any net profits from excess electricity produced by the panels, selling electricity back to the customer at an agreed upon rate, with contracts usually stretching out 25 years after installation.

Putting aside the relatively small size of the city's plans (NYCHA itself consists of 176,000 units and the city's projection would only cover 6,600 households by 2025), they could be giving away long-term profitability in exchange for a short-term cost savings.

When we fly around the city with our jetpacks in the year 2025, hopefully the solar panels we see on NYCHA roofs will be remembered as a forward-thinking project to increase the energy independence of public housing and not an outdated reminder of money poorly spent in an effort to achieve an environmental goal.

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