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

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