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River Terrace Co-op Ready to Bask in Solar Savings

Kathryn Farrell in Green Ideas on April 7, 2020

Washington Heights, Manhattan

Solar panels, cogeneration, Mitchell-Lama co-op, Washington Heights.

The roof of the River Terrace co-op is carpeted with solar panels (image via Google Maps).

April 7, 2020

Good things take time. After chasing its solar dream for almost a decade, the board at the 431-unit River Terrace, a Mitchell-Lama co-op perched above the Hudson River in Washington Heights, will soon start reaping the rewards. The annual projected savings of the solar portion of the project are $16,000, and a linked cogeneration system, once completed, will save an additional $90,000. “At some point in 2020,” predicts Mark Hines, a former board member, “we will start to experience the benefits of these investments.”

If co-op or condo boards are thinking about embarking on their own solar journey, they need to get ready to learn some new words. “It's crazy with the jargon,” says Hines, “many layers of stuff that would essentially be a barrier to the average board or anybody wanting to know this. That, I think, is the real task here: How to make it more digestible.” To that end, Hines is working to take the lessons River Terrace has learned over the last six years and explain them in plain English to help educate other boards.

Combining complementary projects can bring even more savings. About four years ago, the board at River Terrace decided to turn the solar project into a joint program with a cogeneration system, also known as combined heat and power. According to Hines, the decisions to install each system were separate, but the benefits grew when the two systems were combined.

Instead of rushing things, Hines advises, boards should strive to get them right the first time. “I was on the board for six years – I just finished my term,” says Hines. “This started six years ago, in terms of the dialog around it. When I got on the board, it became an active topic. It probably took a year in order to get the board and the community to want to proceed with it, to then use our resources toward figuring out how to make it happen. And then I would say it took another year of figuring it out. About two to three years ago, we had chosen a contractor, and it was funded, but we hadn't started actually installing panels. Now, our installation is complete.”

Good things take time, but they're worth it.

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