Group Installing Solar on its NYC Properties

A New York realty company is providing a model of solar power’s continued growth as it works to complete a project to install solar panels on all the buildings it owns in the borough of Queens.

Zara Realty on April 12 told POWER it is “halfway” to completing installation of solar technology on every site it owns in the borough. The company said solar panels have been placed on 26 of its 45 buildings, part of its goal to eventually transform its entire real estate portfolio “and produce enough clean energy to offset the greenhouse gas emissions of 5 million vehicle miles driven each year,” according to the company.

Zara officials said the $6.5-million project, being led by New York-based Premier Solar Solutions, at present is producing about 1.3 million kWh of electricity, with an eventual goal to produce 2.7 million kWh by the end of the year. About 3,000 of a planned 6,500 solar panels have been installed. The electricity is being used to power the common areas of all the company’s Queens buildings.

Solar Deemed ‘Essential’

The Queens project was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic for part of 2020, but resumed when installation of solar power was deemed an essential business by New York State officials, who are continuing to support renewable energy installations.

Zara Realty plans to install solar panels on the rooftops of 45 of the company’s New York City properties. Courtesy: Zara Realty

“If there is one thing this last year of challenges has made clear, it’s that we all must do whatever we can to help one another and help our planet,” said Tony Subraj, co-managing partner at Zara Realty. “As property owners, we are continually making key investments in infrastructure to secure quality housing for generations. As part of that mission, Zara Realty feels it is important to make those investments part of our commitment to leaving a cleaner, greener world for our children. Renewable energy is the future, and Zara Realty has always striven to be at the forefront of the effort to improve our environment.”

The Zara team said the project aligns with New York State’s Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), a program with a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the state by 40% by 2030, along with a target of having at least 70% of the state’s electricity generated from renewable resources by the end of this decade. It also is being done with an eye toward New York City’s OneNYC plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions by at least 80% by 2050.

Zara Realty is more than halfway toward its goal of installing solar power technology on every building the company owns in Queens. Courtesy: Zara Realty

OneNYC organizers have said about 75% of greenhouse gas emissions in New York City come from buildings. Installations such as those being done by Zara are among the focus topics of POWER’s Distributed Energy Conference, which again this year will include case studies of commercial, industrial, and residential distributed generation projects.

“Zara Realty has shown tremendous vision and commitment to renewable energy and this project should serve as a model for other landlords in New York,” said Chris Hoffmann, president and founder of Premier Solar Solutions. “The city and the state have laid out a path to being carbon-free, and this is precisely the type of work it will take to get there. As a Queens native, it makes me so happy to see my home borough at the cutting edge of this effort to realize the goal of clean, renewable energy to ensure our future.”

The solar panels on Zara’s buildings are designed to maximize efficiency, with standard panels affixed to racking systems and panels that lift and tilt above the roofline to ensure every available surface is used, according to the company.

The project involves several contractors and equipment suppliers. Premier Solar Solutions serves as the solar engineering, construction, and procurement lead, and is the installing contractor. The electrical contractor is Maximum Electric. The solar modules are 370-watt models from Trina Solar and Hyundai.

SolarEdge Inverters is supplying the 208v inverters with P860 optimizers. SunModo is supplying the tilt-up mounting systems; Terragen is supplying the ballasted/attached mounting systems.

NYC Vulnerable to Climate Change

“Climate change is one of the most urgent crises facing our world and New York City will be particularly vulnerable to its effects,” said Amir Sobhraj, co-managing partner at Zara Realty. “We have a collective responsibility to do what is within our power to reduce carbon emissions, and as landlords we have a unique role to play. This solar energy upgrade will mean cleaner air, a brighter future for the coming generations, and it will ultimately reduce costs.”

New York State in recent years has set aggressive targets for cutting carbon emissions and adding renewable energy to the state’s power generation portfolio. Gov. Andrew Cuomo in February announced the state is accelerating plans to help local governments and state agencies build at least 40 distributed solar systems that will generate renewable energy; officials in a news release said their goal is to bring “reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy to surrounding communities.”

Solar Targets and Job Creation

Among other things, the 40 projects announced earlier this year will help meet the New York Power Authority’s 2025 community solar target, which has a goal of 75 MW of renewable energy capacity that includes 15 MW of paired battery storage. State officials said those projects are expected to stimulate more than $135 million in direct, private investments toward their development, construction, and operation; officials also said they expect the projects will create more than 1,250 short-term and long-term jobs.

Zara has said its solar project is supporting about 50 jobs.

“The Queens Chamber is proud to see a great Queens business, Zara Realty, leading the way when it comes to social responsibility,” said Thomas Grech, president and CEO of the Queens Chamber of Commerce. “Zara’s commitment to solarizing their building stock is the right thing to do for our environment and ensuring that Queens residents have a great place to live for generations to come. We are delighted to see our Chamber members, Premier Solar Solutions, which is taking the lead on this important project, and Sol Alliance, working together to show that our borough is on the cutting edge of creating the green energy jobs of tomorrow.”

“Investing in solar energy is the right thing to do for our environment, for our quality of life, and, ultimately for our bottom lines,” said Stephen Owen, managing Partner/Founder of Sol Alliance. “By making the investment into renewables now, landlords like Zara Realty are helping to reduce the massive carbon footprint of New York City, and they are showing the world how converting to solar is both practical and imperative.”

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

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