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The Grinnell Leads the Way in Cutting Its Carbon Footprint

Bill Morris in Green Ideas on April 26, 2019

Washington Heights, Manhattan

Grinnell Solar

Superintendent Miguel Fernandez (left) and Grinnell co-op board member Alan Gardner cut the solar ribbon.

April 26, 2019

Many New Yorkers are in a state of not-so-mild panic over the city’s ambitious new Climate Mobilization Act, which will require owners of large buildings, including co-op and condo boards, to sharply reduce their greenhouse gas emissions beginning in 2024 – or face stiff penalties. It is believed to be the toughest law of its kind in the world. 

The board at the century-old, 82-unit Grinnell co-op in the Audubon Park Historic District in Washington Heights is not sharing in the widespread panic. In a ceremonial ribbon-cutting on Thursday night, the board formally launched its revolutionary solar panel array on the triangular building’s roof. The landmarked Grinnell is one of the first co-ops or condos in the state to use the Community Distributed Generation (CDG) model, also known as community solar. Instead of feeding electricity only to common areas, CDG sends power from the solar panels into the Con Edison grid in exchange for energy credits, which are then divvied up among shareholders, resulting in savings on the electric bills at the individual unit level. Shareholders also receive tax incentives for generating clean power on-site. 

“It was a very low-key ceremony,” Grinnell board member Alan Gardner says of the Thursday night event in the co-op’s community room. “Shareholders and the folks from Bright Power got together to talk about the history of the deal – the production of the system, how it will work, and how the Con Edison credits will work.” 

Bright Power designed, installed and is now monitoring the system’s 320 solar panels, which will provide about 40 percent of shareholders’ individual electricity needs. The board used building funds to create a loan to pay for the project, and the community solar credits will pay off that loan. Though their savings are delayed until the loan is paid off, shareholders in effect own the project. And, for good measure, they’ve taken a major early stride toward complying with the Climate Mobilization Act’s mandate to reduce their building’s carbon output. 

“I’ve been working on this for three years,” says Husna Anwar, Bright Power’s project manager on the Grinnell job. “Now that it’s done, I’m really proud. The shareholders own a piece of the pie, and that’s very rewarding.”

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