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East Village Shelter Embraces Solar Technology

By Allegra Hobbs | December 19, 2016 5:17pm
 New initiative Affordable Solar New York seeks to bring solar panels to affordable housing providers at a low cost.
New initiative Affordable Solar New York seeks to bring solar panels to affordable housing providers at a low cost.
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EAST VILLAGE — A supportive housing organization has teamed up with a trio of clean energy groups to bring solar panels to the roof of one of its shelters, allowing it to cut down on energy costs and funnel more funds into services for low-income locals.

Nazareth Housing, an East Village organization providing emergency shelter, supportive housing, and other services to vulnerable New Yorkers is the first affordable housing provider to receive solar panels at a low cost as part of newly launched initiative Affordable Solar New York.

The initiative, part of a partnership between clean energy groups Solar One, GRID Alternatives, and Co-op Power, provides solar technology to affordable housing groups such as Nazareth, which otherwise may not be able to afford the high up-front price tag, including equipment, installation, permitting, and other service costs.

"We're cutting out a lot of those costs and basically getting solar out there in this markets," said Noah Ginsburg, a director at Solar One.

Nazareth will save approximately $160 per month on its electric bill as a result of the solar panels, which convert sunlight directly into energy, said Ginsburg, adding up to nearly $2,000 per year — money the group can put towards the much-needed services it provides to the community.

"The money they’re saving on their Con Edison bill is money they will reinvest in their programs and services they provide to low-income and homeless populations," Ginsburg said. 

The panels will be installed on the roof of Nazareth's facility at 721 E. Sixth St. before summer 2017, Ginsburg said. 

In addition to putting more money towards community service, the new technology will serve another of Nazareth Housing's values, according to the group's executive director — sustainability.

"The key to everything we do is to try and look at sustainability in our housing. Being in a community that was seriously impacted by Sandy, and also looking at the air-quality issues of urban communities, we really have been trying to find ways to make our supportive and low-income housing more sustainable and more self-sufficient in terms of power," said Nazareth Housing executive director Michael Callaghan, also the co-chair of local resiliency group LES Ready. "This is a really great opportunity for us to bring one of our buildings onto solar."

Callaghan notes he also sees it as an issue of social justice — solar technology is more readily accessible to those with more funds at their disposal, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't be made available to lower-earning New Yorkers.

"There's a justice issue here that says if there's something that can make life better for everybody, it should make life better for everybody — not just some people," he said.

The partnership behind the initiative is looking to bring more solar technology to affordable housing in the neighborhood, noted Ginsburg, adding that the group is already in talks with East Village organization Cooper Square Committee to expand the program.

"We're really just getting started with this, and see this as the first of many projects," Ginsburg said. "The hope is, in the Lower East Side, where affordable housing is so limited and so coveted, we can really bring solar energy to keep that housing affordable and reduce the operation cost for organizations so they can sustain themselves in a really challenging economic market."