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"It’s Embarrassing How Much Money We Save": An Everyday Co-op Goes Solar

Ronda Keysen in Board Operations on May 22, 2012

River Arts Co-op, 15900 Riverside Drive West, Washington Heights

New York City River Arts Co-op Solar Power
May 22, 2012

"It's really just about the budget and the goals and if it makes good financial sense to do it," says Christopher Moustakis, a partner at Solar Energy Systems, which installed the solar panels at the River Arts cooperative in Manhattan's Washington Heights. The 14,000 square feet of paneling, installed on its rooftop two years ago, save the shareholders $15,000 a year.

"It's kind of embarrassing how much we save," notes Jack Fogle, the building manager and a River Arts resident since 1981. In 2010, the co-op replaced all the light fixtures in the common areas, shaving another $18,700 a year off its energy costs.

Rollin' on the River

River Arts is a 73-year-old complex comprised of a pair of buildings spanning two city blocks. Its lobby opens out onto a 24,000-square-foot glen with wild undergrowth and arching trees that separate it from its neighbors. Its isolated location and two wide rooftops make it an ideal candidate for solar.

The solar panels, installed on

its rooftop two years ago, save

the shareholders $15,000 a year.

The shiny, black solar panels blanket a third of the roof and are set at an angle to capture more of the sun (see photo above). From their base, thin pipes snake across the rooftop, connecting to inverters, which change the energy from DC to AC power. Now ready to join the public grid, the energy travels down thick pipes to a Con Edison meter below.

The Cost? All of $34,560

The co-op board installed the panels on one of the rooftops in summer 2010. The energy powers the building's common areas. The combined lighting and solar projects reduced the building's operating expenses by two percent.

The project cost $418,000 at the outset. River Arts financed it with a federal tax credit, a grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), and a city property tax abatement.

In all, the credits and grants reduced their final bill to $34,560. "We hit a real sweet spot," says Fogle of the incentives. "The numbers started to work for us."


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