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Queens Real Estate Company Going Green With Solar Panels

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | April 29, 2013 8:42am

QUEENS — Here comes the sun.

In an effort to become more environmentally friendly and to save on energy bills, a Rego Park-based real estate company has installed solar panels on the rooftops of its more than two dozens buildings in the city.

Triumph Real Estate Management LLC, which has approximately 30 buildings, most of them in Queens, some in Washington Heights and in Riverdale in The Bronx, began the green makeover about two years ago.

The company installed its first panels in January 2012 on the rooftop of a 10-story apartment building on Austin Street in Kew Gardens, said Robert Simone, a Triumph manager.

The original cost of the project there was about $300,000, but the company received grants that will significantly lower the costs.

The most recent installation of solar panels came in March at a building complex on Burns Street in Forest Hills.

“We are very conscious of climate change and the technology is available to you,” he said. “If we can generate electricity and reduce our cost then we look at it as a business proposition.”

The company uses energy produced by the panels for lighting in hallways, power for elevators and to operate boilers.

Simone said that in most cases panels produce 100 percent of the electricity used in buildings' common areas.

In the case of the rental building in Kew Gardens, because it has a penthouse that makes it difficult to utilize more space, Simone said, the panels produce about 70 percent of the electricity used in the building's public areas — about 50,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year.

But the savings are still substantial, he said. For example, a monthly bill for the building's common areas in March 2011 was $2,200. A year later, after the panels had been installed, the bill was $842, Simone said.

In the summer, panels generate more power than the buildings use, Simone said.

“When you produce more than you use, your meter goes in the opposite direction and feeds that electricity back into the grid,” he said. “Then we get a bill that shows credits from Con Edison.”

According to The City University of New York, which had developed a map showing solar installations in New York City, it’s rare that a company installs panels on that many buildings. But the popularity of solar energy in the area, fueled by federal, state and city incentives, is growing and currently there are more than 700 solar installations operating in the city, according to data provided by CUNY.

Putting in solar panels in not cheap, Simone acknowledged, and because it’s a relatively new technology, it requires a lot of paperwork, he said. But he added that there are many grants available, which make the return on investment significantly shorter.

According to the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, combining various state incentives can save homeowners up to 70 percent of the purchase cost. 

In 2012, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched the NY-Sun program to increase the number of solar projects in the state. The program was expanded earlier this month by providing $150 million per year for the next 10 years.

Dayle Zatlin from the NYS Energy Research and Development Authority said there are more solar panels “under development in the state today than in the entire prior decade.”

Simone said installing solar panels is way of coping with ever-rising costs of energy.

“We try to reduce the electricity because its cost just keeps going up,” said Simone, whose company also changed the bulbs in all its buildings to compact fluorescent versions.

But he said going green is also a matter of principle.

“I think in the city you should either have solar panels or green roofs, because so much of the city’s footprint is roofs and you don’t use those roofs for anything,” Simone said.