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Catching Rays at Brooklyn Army Terminal
New York City to install 50,000-square-foot rooftop solar array on Brooklyn Army Terminal
Pilot program calls for a massive solar array to be installed in Brooklyn.

New York is banking on a bright future for the roof of the city-owned Brooklyn Army Terminal. As part of a pilot project, it plans to install a 50,000-square-foot photovoltaic (PV) panel array at the office/industrial complex. The Smart Grid Demonstration Project would create the largest solar collector in the city, capable of producing at least 600,000 kilowatt hours of electricity each year, enough to power 2 percent of BAT’s electrical usage, or 120 city homes.

“If it is successful, which we anticipate that it will be, it will open up new locations in the future,” said Vivian Liao, spokesperson for the NYC Economic Development Corporation. The city is reviewing its property portfolio to pinpoint other buildings where solar arrays could be installed, including the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Last month, the EDC issued an RFP for a construction manager.

The project is also a test of the methods used to finance the $10 million pilot. “The city would do this everywhere if we could, but we don’t have the money to pay for it,” said Liao. Instead, NYCEDC will provide $2.65 million toward installation costs, while investors interested in earning the federal tax credits produced by the project finance the balance. Con Edison will also allocate up to $4.5 million from the $181 million awarded to it under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Brooklyn Army Terminal solar array.The solar array will produce at least 600,000 kilowatt hours or electricity each year, or enough to power about 120 homes.

Once it’s installed, Con Edison and the city will collect data from the BAT installation along with other potential solar-array sites around the city. “The demonstration project at the Brooklyn Army Terminal will allow us to monitor solar panels, building energy management systems, and energy storage,” said Con Ed vice president Aubrey Braz in a release. “The goal is to reduce energy consumption based on grid conditions, especially on the hottest summer days.”

Though states like Arizona or California are more ideal locations for solar collection, PV projects in the Northeast can also make economic sense because the region’s electricity prices are higher.

The plan to install solar panels at BAT was announced as part of the Bloomberg Administration’s Green Economy Plan in October 2009. The solar panels will be installed on the roof of BAT building B, covering approximately 20 percent of the rooftop. Because the price of solar PV panels has fallen in recent years, the city is optimistic it may be able to expand the anticipated size of the array once a construction manager is selected.

Jennifer K. Gorsche