I had such a blast with these kids from the Flatbush Reformed Church Summer camp today. They already knew what I always say: we use renewable energy because it’s clean, it doesn’t cause carbon emissions, it improves air quality and it puts the brakes on global warming. It’s also good for keeping energy costs down in the long run. We used the SunBike at the Church Avenue Communal Garden to shred leaves for the compost pile. As master composters Anne Pope and Kady Ferguson explained, the compost needs “browns” like leaves along with food scraps. Shredding them makes the compost decompose more quickly, so why not let renewable energy do all the work (well, most of it)? Then each kid took the SunBike on a little jaunt around the church yard–just to show they’re not just smart. They’re strong enough to haul more than 200 lbs of equipment wherever it needs to go to follow the sun. You’ll see the voltage and amp meters in the video. Multiply them together for watts. Hey, that’s a 1000 watts. Good job, SunBike, and great job, kids!
Electrical integration advisor Gregory Rodlico helping me build the SunBike.
Here are a series of clips documenting the SunBike build. Special thanks to Solar Team Members Kimberly White, Joel El Pasao, Sam Tesfaye and Gregory Rodlico.
Solar Power That Is!
Sustainable Flatbush is proud to announce a partnership with Con Edison to build the SunBike, a mobile solar electric system that gets around in a retrofitted cargo bike. The SunBike will be able to provide enough energy to power a small sound system and lighting for up to two hours without access to sunlight, and do so much more.
Making Clean Energy A Reality
I’ve dreamed about creating a mobile solar electric system since I started advocating for clean energy at New York City Public Schools five years ago. With all those beautiful, unshaded flat roofs soaking up the sun’s rays, schools seemed the perfect place to show communities the benefits of clean energy and prepare our students for the green economy at the same time. But when I discovered that New York City public schools aren’t eligible for New York State’s renewable energy incentives, I resolved that solar would have to get some wheels to reach our city’s 1200 school buildings and over one million students. And now, with support from ConEd, Sustainable Flatbush can solar-empower school kids, community residents and local businesses alike.
A Vital Learning Tool
The SunBike (which we used to call the PowerBike) will become the centerpiece of the Sustainable Flatbush Solar Team, a group of local youth who will learn about solar power by studying the SunBike and analyzing all power and energy data collected while the SunBike is in action. The Solar Team gets in-depth knowledge and leadership skills as they share what they’ve learned with the public when they take the SunBike to the streets. They will help community residents charge their cell phones, laptops and mp3 players, provide power for events, and anything else they can imagine. The SunBike will show that renewable energy is not a dream but a reality right now.
The SunBike and You
The SunBike will be a visible presence on the streets of Flatbush starting next summer, at schools, street fairs, on sidewalks at “charging events” under the sponsorship of local businesses, and beyond. So if you’re walking down the street and you hear a little jingle, it just might be the SunBike coming your way, offering you clean and free power to fuel your day, and showing the way to our clean energy future.
Thanks to ConEd for their generous support of this project!
Just how much money will you save if you change all your conventional light bulbs to energy efficient compact fluorescents, aka CFLs?
And by the way, switching to CFLs isn’t just a brilliant idea for your budget. It’s great for the environment, too.
“How many members of Sustainable Flatbush does it take to change a light bulb?” asked State Senator Kevin Parker during his remarks at our Neighborhood Energy Forum in March, riffing on the perennial joke.
“None, because you already changed your incandescent bulbs to CFLs and they last forever.”
Well, maybe not forever, but the long-time advocate for clean energy and the environment made his point. At our Energy Forum on March 20 at the Brooklyn College Student Center, we learned that to meet our ambitious local, state, and federal energy efficiency goals, we’re going to have to do a lot more than change our light bulbs.
More than 70 people gathered to find out how to make major energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades on the large and small homes of Flatbush. Our Executive Director Anne Pope fulfilled her promise to share what she learned on her quest to reduce her coop building’s energy use, save money for its residents, and reduce the carbon emissions that damage our health and contribute to global warming.
Most of us have had to open a window in an overheated apartment in the middle of winter, and we recognize that, as Anne noted at our panel on multi-family buildings, we might as well be throwing money out the window. Here in New York City, large multi-family buildings present one of our biggest challenges. We can’t build new state-of-the-art buildings in our dense neighborhoods; we have to work with what we have.
Because of our density, New York City uses less energy per resident than other cities, but as panelist Andy Padian pointed out, the average NYC apartment uses 3 to 5 times the energy per square foot per heating degree day as a dwelling in Iowa.
Padian, Vice President for Energy Initiatives at the Community Preservation Corporation and this year’s recipient of the Distinguished Service Award from the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association, also provided the title of this post. His presentation included a photo of the roofs of Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town housing complex–where 500 vents leak a lot of heat–to make the point that building managers need to know how to find and seal holes. Padian made other recommendations, too, such as turning off or dimming common area lighting, cutting way back on water use (40% of the heat in our buildings is used for hot water), and fixing those leaks. One leaky toilet can cost up to $12,000 per year!
Panelist Jonathan Flothow of The Steam Balancing Company advised a “balanced” approach to heating in our large residential buildings. Before replacing a boiler, make sure the pipes and radiators are properly maintained, sized, and vented. Simply replacing a boiler won’t save you much energy or money. If you do replace a boiler, make sure it’s the right size. Most boilers are wasteful because they’re too big.
Lucas Falk of the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, and National Grid’s Paolo Morisi touched on incentives offered by the State and utility.
1-4 Family Homes
It’s an ideal time for energy efficiency upgrades and renewable energy projects on our 1-4 family homes, according to panelists Louis Rizzo of National Grid and Ellen Honigstock, an architect, LEED-AP, and certified building auditor. With a range of tax credits and government and utility incentive programs, you can get funding for new windows, energy efficient appliances, solar-electric installations, and much more. Then you can start saving money on your energy bills and make back your investment in a few years.
Ellen’s presentation gives all the details, with numbers from sample projects, but your investment and payback may be different. Download the presentation here.
“Sustainability Starts with Us”
Those were words that Lucas Falk left us with on March 20, and it’s a mandate we take to heart. It’s our goal at Sustainable Flatbush to increase the energy efficiency of our neighborhood. Stay tuned for your in-depth guide to all the resources we gathered at the Neighborhood Energy Forum to assist you on your path to energy efficiency and affordability.
Thanks to Lois Sturm for her contribution to this post.