It’s not only hay, but also solar energy, that needs to be made while the sun shines. The need for daylight has been a major drawback to maximizing collection of solar energy to be used, stored or sold. Until now.

Researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory have developed a new technology that allows for gathering sunlight for a few hours after sundown. Their “nanoantenna” embeds a very slim piece of conducting metal onto plastic film which is then able to absorb infrared energy stored in the earth, even after the sun sets.

Though still not ready for prime time, the technology opens a new doorway into cost-efficient energy gathering as it will be a cost-efficient film that can be installed on flexible materials.

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By Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Would you like your solar panels in blue-black, blue-black or blue-black? For years, that’s been your only efficient choice. But researchers recently announced they’ve discovered a way to make the panels bright green.

Once we’ve gone green, can other colorations be far behind? Imagine terra cotta for roofs, green or brown for ground-level panels camouflaged by natural areas, and white, taupe and every other color for exterior walls and outbuildings.

Color panels are currently being made but they are only about 50% as efficient as the ubiquitous blue-black PV panels. The new green panels, which infuse color via “nanocylinders”, rather than a coating or reflective dye, are about 90% as efficient in generating electricity.

A new solar color palette may well incentivize installation for property owners who believe in sustainability principles, but want their solar to aesthetically blend in with their site and architecture.

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By Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

As the cost of solar products rapidly decreases, the cost of acquiring new customers is substantially increasing. Thus, it’s no surprise that when homeowners complained about the same old/same old look of solar panels, manufacturers responded with design-focused solutions for 2019.

This year’s new products will include frameless panels, a response to consumers disliking existing frame appearance. The upside is a fresher, cleaner look. The downside is the need for new mounting systems.

Also new is clear solar panels encased between two pieces of glass that not only harness sunlight but bring it beautifully indoors via skylights, atriums and windows for a natural-light rich interior environment.

Next up are double-sided panels that harvest energy from both sunlight and reflections from a roof or the ground. Ever get snow glare? That gives you an idea of how these dual panels would work on snow-covered, white and bright ground.

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With the recent announcement of steep tariffs on solar panels and cells imported to the U.S., the question is whether there is going to be a winner in this playoff of Us against Them.

Us, pardon the pun, is the U.S., specifically manufacturers of solar products and, even more specifically, the publicized efforts of two solar companies, Suniva Inc. and SolarWorld Americas, who said cheap imports were hurting their U.S. operations.

Who is Them? Take your pick. China. South Korea. Malaysia. World trade organizations. Anyone buying solar power. Solar power workers.

Opinions are running strong and hot on whether tariffs (initiated by a little used trade law about industries affected by imports) will help or hinder the fast-growing solar industry in the U.S.
For the next four years, the tariffs start at 30% and will eventually fall to 15%. The first 2.5 gigawatts of solar cells will be exempt so that U.S. manufacturers can still access supplies.

Will the tariffs make solar energy more expensive? Will they slow down the exponential growth of solar installations? Will the tariffs result in losing U.S. jobs and, if so, how many and in what segments?

Here’s what The New York Times had to say.

Inquiring minds would like to know your opinion!

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

There is something very valuable, free to everyone in New York City if the means to capitalize on it are created. It’s called sunlight, an endless renewable resource. It’s sustainable, inexhaustible and it’s free, folks. All you have to do to set the process of acquiring free energy forever (yes, we said free again and forever) is embrace the process of installing solar.

We’ve been writing about solar for quite a few years. From its infancy as a novel, difficult and expensive process, to its evolution from single family residences, to multi-family, to commercial.

As the only LEED-AP BD +C commercial real estate appraiser in New York City, I am always on the alert for ways property owners can build value with energy savings and sustainable practices. I can say with certainty that solar power will increase the value of your property as a result of energy cost savings, and enhanced green positioning and reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution that will certainly accrue to the bottom line. It also positions a building owner as a responsible corporate citizen.

Now, the biggest installation of solar in multi-family housing in the U.S. has been announced. The owners of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village plan to convert the complex’s 56 buildings to solar. According to news sources, they’ll be spending about $10 million to install 10,000 panels. Making the process feasible: the buildings all have flat roofs. (The original story appeared in the print edition of The Wall Street Journal on November 8th.)

Installing solar is not easy. Or inexpensive. Or, even at this point in time, always worth it. There remain many variables. When you have a multi-story commercial or residential tower, the equation/ratio of what and how many solar panels can be installed vs. how much energy is generated and the length of the ROI can be a complex equation. StuyTown’s owners don’t expect to have a significant ROI but had other, compelling reasons for the installation.

Complexity aside, what is required to embrace solar and all of its benefits, starts with a commitment to convert to renewable energy.

The good news is that costs for installing solar are going down everywhere in tandem with increased efficiency of as much as 70%. The speed of solar technology innovations in the last decade, and particularly in the last few years, has been breathtaking. Advances include new designs that better complement structures; ground-level solar tracking that allows panels to follow the sun; solar glass windows; a solar paint in development; and MIT working on a technology that would harness the waste heat of today’s solar panels.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

More than a year ago, I wrote: “To lay the foundation for a city whose future will be considerably more sustainable, green cannot be limited to luxury residential developments, nor Class A office buildings. The future must also embrace, encourage and fund sustainable initiatives in lower income areas of New York.”

I went on to say that The Bronx had shown considerable progress, buoyed by from both the public and private sectors.

Now, the city has announced two new programs in their “Solarize NYC” initiative focused on residents and businesses coming together to achieve community (lower) pricing from solar power companies. What is strategic about the program is that it addresses two of the city’s urban characteristics, one physical, one social. The first is the extreme density of our City’s buildings; and the second is that so many city residents are renters or otherwise do not have access to solar power.

What is brilliant about the “Solarize NYC” program is that you don’t need a roof to install solar – impossibly expensive for many buildings and out and out impossible for renters. The City estimates power cost reductions of 10-20%.

“By making solar more accessible and affordable, we are combating climate change and reducing the burden of air pollution,” the mayor said in statement.

The recently announced programs are in Harlem and Downtown Brooklyn and both, though similar, are also distinctly different in their goals that go beyond solarizing.

Brooklyn is, of course, becoming increasingly gentrified. But Downtown Brooklyn has long been the civic and commercial hub of the borough – courthouses, borough hall, federal buildings, colleges, the Williamsburg Savings Bank Tower, Metro Tech Center and certainly not the least of them, Barclays Center – as well as the third largest business district in the city.

This “Emerging 2030 District” solarizing program encompasses Community Board 2 which includes the Tech Triangle, DUMBO, the Brooklyn Navy Yard and parts of Fort Greene, Clinton Hill, Boerum Hill, Atlantic Yards and BAM. According to the 2030 District’s website, the area was selected because of “…its diversity, a characteristic which facilitates the modeling of sustainability and resilience planning for the entire city in this compact area.”

Harlem, on the other hand, is part of the WEACT (for Environmental Justice) program focused on “building healthy communities for people of color and low-income residents in Northern Manhattan. “ It will provide the opportunity to bring clean and sustainable solar energy and its reduced costs into the homes of low to moderate income families.

It’s energizing (pun intended) to watch the impressive steady progress of the City in making New York a leader in sustainability. The goal for solar is to increase use to one gigawatt by 2030.

If solarizing interests you as a NYC resident, worker, property or business owner, you can spearhead having your neighborhood (no matter how you define it) participate in the Solarize NYC program. You can find the application at solarizenyc.com.

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It’s the future. With the largest number of high-rise buildings – over 6,000 – and with the most skyscrapers (243), New York City has become the largest solar energy producer in the world.

There are solar panels on roofs and the sides of buildings as well as in glass, in sheets over regular glass, in electricity-producing coatings over glass. New buildings incorporate solar storage into architectural plans. Older ones have done so through a retrofit. All buildings are storing energy for rainy, cloud-filled days. Government storage has generated enough energy to allow the city to function off the grid. Carbon emissions have been greatly reduced and a net zero carbon foot print has been met.

Yes, it’s the future. And yes, it’s New York City’s future. But rather than some sort of Buck Rogers’s scenario, this is the foreseeable future of the world’s greatest city.

The impact on expense profiles and operating incomes could be huge – and the impact on property values significant.
High-rises are notorious energy hogs. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, about 40% of total U.S. energy is consumed in residential and commercial buildings. All that height and density produces an Urban Heat Island Effect which makes hot temperatures higher and generates greater need for A/C power.

Enter what could be called the perfect storm. A state and city government committed to lowering gas emissions, decreasing the carbon footprint, becoming sustainable and being able to operate outside the grid and providing many incentives for businesses to do so. In New York where mammoth wind turbines in Central Park are not an option, the best and cleanest solution is solar.

Just last month, new long-term goals were created for energy storage and solar capacity. The city plans to build 11-MWh of storage capacity by 2020 and 1,000 MW of solar capacity by 2030.

Add world climate change to the above, and we also have a new sense of urgency for sustainability. Mid-year, NASA stated that 2016 has been the hottest year and July 2016 the hottest month ever recorded on earth since modern climate reports began in 1880.

In an article by Chelsea Harvey in The Washington Post earlier this year, “With an increasing global migration into the world’s urban areas, which are expected to support at least two-thirds of the total human population by 2050, experts have argued that cities have no choice but to transition toward low-carbon systems if they’re going to remain sustainable.”

Thus, we have incentive and urgency. The final piece of the equation is viability and not only that of installing a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. Rooftop solar PV panels do greatly reduce electricity consumption from the grid and carbon emissions. But even with prices going down, they can be expensive to install and high-rise and skyscraper rooftops may not be able to accommodate enough panels to reap the desired return on investment.

Solar PV panels will remain a primary source of solar energy but it is swiftly-moving solar technologies that are working to provide an easier, more cost-efficient solution.

SolarWindow Technologies, Inc. announced last month that it has begun work on transparent electricity-generating veneers that can be applied onto existing windows. The coatings would have a layer which would absorb light and convert it to energy; and another layer from which the energy could be extracted.

If the company succeeds in developing the process, they claim it will generate 50 times the energy of a PV panel and have a ROI of only one year. Whether it will become reality should be known within the next few years.
But there are other options including solar glass. To date, one of the problems with solar glass has been a lack of clarity and transparency. But scientists at Michigan State University have developed a fully transparent solar concentrator that can turn any ordinary window or piece of glass (such as your Smartphone screen) into the equivalent of a PV panel.

Research is also being undertaken by technology companies as well as academia scientists on how to create silicon-based solar cells that can be cost effectively produced on a large, commercial scale. Currently, silicon needs to be much thicker than solar cells, making it too costly for widespread use. Research includes using more unrefined or “dirty” silicon and/or combining it with other substances to produce a cost-feasible product.

Silicon also plays a role in the development of innovative storage. According to ScienceDaily, “A novel system has been created that allows the storage of energy in molten silicon which is the most abundant element in Earth’s crust.”

Compelling incentives. Urgency in the form of climate change. Technology seeking new ways to harness solar power more easily and less expensively. Before we know it, solar in the city will be commonplace, an extraordinary advancement in clean energy. The impact on expense profiles and operating incomes could be huge – and the impact on property values significant.

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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

Prices for solar are going down as quality is going up. Predictions are that solar energy will be the least expensive form of generating energy by the year 2020. Solar also makes an outstanding contribution, via reduction of emissions, to making New York a healthier, greener city. And government is doing its part in encouraging the solar movement.

What could have been, if not the doom, but certainly a huge setbackin the growth of solar was circumvented in December 2015 when the federal 30% corporate Investment Tax Credit (ITC) was extended through the end of 2019.

Closer to home, solar in New York State grew 575% between 2011-2014. Invested, literally and figuratively, in supporting solar installation, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority has integrated all of its solar programs under one umbrella: NY-Sun. A commitment of $1 billion was made to propel and motivate the marketplace with an abundance of incentives, including financial support for public and private building installations. (NY-SUN.NY.GOV)

New York City has deferred to the state with regard to providing detailed information and incentives for installing solar in the city.

The City University of New York has, however, taken up a leadership position with its Sustainable CUNY program. Having launched its NYC Solar Map back in 2011, last month at the NY Solar Summit, they announced the design/build of a “comprehensive interactive website” (nysolarmap.com) that provides in-depth technical and financial feasibility information statewide.

Put in your address and the site will show you solar system size, payback period, yearly energy savings, total cost and net cost after incentives and taxes. You can “Get a Quote” or download a report. Can we say brilliant? Sustainable CUNY was supported by both the aforementioned NY-Sun program as well as the DOE’s SunShot Initiative, a nationwide collaborative effort with the goal of reducing the cost of solar electricity. The Solarmap even outlines opportunities for renters, investors and those without a roof that can sustain solar installation.

We do a lot of research for these articles and early on in doing so for this one, we came across a New York Times’ article from January 2008 entitled “(Solar) Power to the People Is Not So Easily Achieved.” It’s a wonderfully and amusingly written piece about the trials and tribulations of installing solar in a Washington Heights apartment building. Written only 8 years ago, it seems almost quaint based on the tremendous strides of the solar industry.

We believe there’s a solar installation heading your way. And with the help of government, institutions and your solar installation company/consultant, we also believe you’re going to be surprised about how much easier and less costly it’s going to be.
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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

When last I wrote about solar, it was to shed some light on why solar energy has lagged behind other energy savings, green and sustainability initiatives in New York City.

There are so many benefits to be realized from solar power. It’s clean, cost efficient, energy saving, relieves pressure on the traditional power grid and is even attractive. But its growth has been stunted by two huge obstacles – affordability and achievability.

Solar isn’t just about long-term energy savings, although, understandably, reduced costs are a priority for property owners. It’s also about good corporate citizenship and making a contribution to a healthier city. According to CleanTechnica, “maximizing New York City’s solar potential with 410 MW of solar would reduce emissions by 1.78 million metric tons, 3.7% of the city’s total emissions.”

The good news is that costs are going down for solar which, along with many incentives, will greatly improve ROI.

Costs have decreased as solar technology advanced and solar panel manufacturers became more efficient. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), “The cost to install solar has dropped by more than 70% over the last 10 years.” The SEIA also reports that average price for a commercial PV (photovoltaic cells that convert sunlight to electricity) project “has dropped by nearly 30% in the past 3 years alone.”

Deutsch Bank, which installed the largest solar PV system in Manhattan and currently has the highest elevated solar PV flat panel array in the world at its 60 Wall Street Americas headquarters, issued a report that said, “…we expect solar electricity to become competitive with retail electricity in an increasing number of markets globally due to declining solar panel costs as well as improving financing and customer acquisition costs.”

Numerous top tier publications have predicted solar energy will become the least expensive form of energy generation by 2020.

Next we’ll explore what government is doing to support solar installations with incentives and technical help.
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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services

The lyrics go “Hot town, summer in the city…” and New York certainly is. Soaring temps are further intensified by the Urban Heat Island Effect which makes NYC hotter than rural areas due to population density. Then come the astronomical power bills as the A/C cranks to keep a building comfortably livable and workable. Between the heat, power usage and summertime peak demand, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions also increase exponentially.

Though New York City’s uber urban landscape is, in many ways, a near utopian model for a sustainable lifestyle, one major technology slow in being adopted here is solar power. Solar is smart. It’s environmentally sound. It ultimately saves significant money. It reduces pressure on the traditional power grid. It’s even attractive. Why then has it not taken off in New York City?

The answer is cost. And more cost. You have to be able to afford it or qualify for a loan. Then there’s red tape. And more red tape. The permitting and approval process can be onerous in New York City. And feasibility. Your building is very tall. You imagine all the sunlight that can be used to heat and air¬ condition the building. But is the roof large enough? Is it in good condition? Does it get enough sun to generate enough energy to make the project worthwhile?

Then think of getting all that cable up whatever number of stories and the feasibility studies. One solar panel is about 10 square feet. Can you fit enough on your roof to justify the project and expense even after rebates and incentives? What about the time it will take to get permits, applications and approvals from various entities including Con Ed for interconnectivity and the Department of Buildings? You’ll also have to do all of the paperwork to benefit from incentives and subsidies.

If the project is a condominium or cooperative, you may face challenges in obtaining shareholder support and possibly need a special assessment.

If it’s a commercial building, the cost may be prohibitive. Then there is the question of whether solar is even possible as a retrofit.

In a suburban house, solar panels will generate enough energy for a family of four. But when you have a multi¬story commercial or residential tower, the equation/ratio of what and how many solar panels can be installed vs. how much energy is generated and the length of the ROI is significantly more complex.
In 2012, Deutsche Bank answered the feasibility question about commercial building viability with a solar retrofit when it installed a 122.4 kW solar photovoltaic (PV) system on the roof of its 50-¬story American headquarters at 60 Wall Street. The building was originally built between 1987-¬1989 for J.P. Morgan & Co., making it, if not modern, at least of more recent vintage than many of the city’s aging stock of skyscrapers.

The system is the largest solar PV array in Manhattan and currently the highest elevated solar PV flat panel array in the world. It will reduce electricity consumption from the grid and decrease carbon emissions by 100 metric tons per year.

Deutsche Bank did not release the cost of the retrofit, but as a global company, the bank has a comprehensive corporate commitment to sound environmental activities and also provides debt and equity capital for renewable energy. Thus, 60 Wall Street is an admirable, monolithic symbol for the bank worldwide.

But, unlike a headquarters building, the majority of landlords are dealing with multiple tenants of varying SF leases at varying cost with no shared environmental policies.
All that being said, this article is meant to be informational, not disheartening, because there is a lot of good news for landlords interested in installing solar. Many of the aforementioned issues have become simpler and less costly.

New York State has made a huge commitment to advancing solar power. The federal solar Investment Tax Credit can significantly lower project cost. As for feasibility and red tape, a solar consultant or installer can handle all of that on your behalf. Lastly, indications are that costs are coming down.
As the only LEED¬ AP BD +C commercial real estate appraiser in New York City, I am constantly seeking out ways for property owners to build value with energy savings and sustainable practices. I can say with certainty that, when done correctly, solar power will increase the value of your property as a result of energy cost savings, and enhanced green positioning with regard to reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution that will certainly accrue to the bottom line.

Thus I encourage exploring installing solar power. What incentives, credits, guidelines and which buildings are viable is the topic of the next article in this series covering the past, present and future of solar in New York City.
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Steven_J._SchleiderBy Steven J. Schleider, MAI, LEED-AP BD + C President, Metropolitan Valuation Services