KIPS BAY — The City Council has awarded $1.25 million of its 2013 budget to Solar One to help finance the construction of New York City’s first energy-positive building.
The 13,000-square-foot structure will expand on Solar One’s mission to provide environmental education and programming to the public.
The building’s eco-friendly design elements will allow it to produce more energy than it will use. Solar 2 will then be able to return an estimated 8 percent of energy back to the city’s grid, said Christopher Collins, executive director of the nonprofit Solar One.
The new structure will replace the existing 500-square-foot Solar One building, which is nestled in Stuyvesant Cove Park where 23rd Street meets the East River. When the old facility was completed in 2003, it was the city’s first green energy, arts and education center and its only stand-alone, solar-powered building.
The new Solar 2 facility will be 26 times larger than Solar One and carries an estimated construction cost of $10 million. The organization has already collected about $6.1 million. Solar One is now just $2.7 million shy of its overall goal.
The City Council grant comes amid massive city and state budget cuts that are impacting everything from school tuition fees to the number of beds at area shelters and the future of the city’s libraries.
For that reason, Collins said the award “is even more humbling.”
Collins attributes the funding coup to shoe-leather advocacy. He said representatives from Solar One visited as many of the city’s elected officials as they could and made the case for the new structure.
“All of them got behind it,” Collins said. “It’s hard but you just do it, and you make your way through.”
“The Solar 2 project takes environmental sustainability to the highest level by creating the first LEED-Platinum, net-zero energy use and net-zero water use building in the city,” Gennaro, chair of the council’s environmental protection committee, said in a statement.
“I look forward to this project serving as an environmental template for [the] future of New York City’s skyline.”
Collins said the fact that the building could actually return power to the city's grid helped win over the elected officials, as did the organization’s focus on expanding environmental education.
People who visit Solar 2 will get a chance to watch eco-friendly energy systems at work. The structure will be built to include cutaways and transparent walls that will render the building’s operating systems plainly visible.
“We need places where you can sort of kick the tires, see it’s possible, see it’s real,” Collins said.
Solar 2 will be powered in part by photovoltaic panels, and the building will be outfitted with a blackwater treatment system so that rain and sewage water can be captured, treated and reused for toilet flushing and irrigation, Collins added.
The facility will have an outdoor green theater, equipped with a solar-powered stage, and a hydroponic vertical greenhouse, likely the first in the city, that will stretch three stories up the side of the structure, Collins said. The produce grown inside will be put to use in Solar 2’s café.
Collins said he estimates that construction on the project will create roughly 120 jobs, and a bigger facility could mean added staff for Solar One. But the organization can’t break ground until it raises the rest of the $10 million.
Still, Collins said he is hopeful Solar 2 will come to life sooner rather than later.
“We have enough good will and good relationships with a lot of city agencies,” he said. “So I think we’ll be able to move it along pretty quickly.”