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BY SCOTT M. STRINGER | At a time when middle-class families are working harder than ever to make ends meet, New York City could be taking bold and innovative steps to create thousands of new green-collar jobs, generate clean energy and cut our monthly utility bills. All we have to do is look up.
The roofs of our public schools are a vast, untapped source of new jobs and energy, and if New York embarks on a campaign to install solar roof panels on them, as I’ve just recommended in a new report, “Rooftop Revolution,” we could transform the life of the city and dramatically boost a new economic sector. Schools and solar power are a perfect match, an idea whose time has come. All it takes is leadership to make this a reality in Manhattan and the four other boroughs.
Consider the data: Using the City University of New York’s N.Y.C. Solar Map, we estimated new solar installations could generate 169.46 megawatts of clean, renewable energy and eliminate 76,696 tons of carbon from the air each year — the equivalent of planting more than 400,000 trees. This would also increase solar capacity in the five boroughs by more than 2,500 percent.
Just as important, the installation of solar panels on New York City’s public schools could create an estimated 5,423 green-collar jobs and give a dramatic economic boost to a new energy sector, according to an analysis by New Energy New York, an advocacy group. This is not rocket science. Solar energy programs are underway in New Jersey and California, plus numerous school districts across the nation. Globally, solar programs have also been launched in Germany and China.
New York City should be a world leader, not a follower, in expanding our region’s solar economy. California and New Jersey have installed up to 1,000 megawatts of solar electricity — enough to power 1 million homes — while New York currently has only 6.5 megawatts. New Jersey has become the nation’s fastest-growing market for solar energy. We cannot afford to lag so far behind.
Here’s what we need to do: I’m calling on City Hall to develop a long-term plan to install solar panels on public school roofs, where feasible. I’m also urging the legislature to pass The Solar Jobs Act, which would establish a system of renewable energy credits, stimulate investment and create new jobs and revenues — all at an estimated cost of 9 cents per month to New York ratepayers. That’s not just a good deal. It’s a blueprint for strong economic growth and smart environmental policy.
Taken as a whole, there are 2.7 million square feet of usable space for solar panels in our public schools — enough space to cover 57 percent of Central Park.
Here in Manhattan, there are over 2,776,951 square feet available, or more than 13 percent of the city’s total public school roof space. And schools could be just the beginning. If every rooftop in the city were properly fitted with solar energy installations, CUNY experts estimate we could generate half of New York’s peak energy supply. We would also create a powerful new teaching tool for our students, so they could learn about sustainable energy, climate change and other sciences.
It’s time to stop talking about solar energy and make it a reality. I urge all New Yorkers to join me in this campaign, so we can harness the sun’s power and generate thousands of new jobs for our city. When it comes to new technology and a bright future, the sky is truly the limit.
Stringer is Manhattan borough president