Fun in the Sun at the Church Avenue Garden

August 11, 2011

Kady Ferguson with kids from Flatbush Reformed Church summer camp. Photo by Jocelyn Cohen.

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!


Building the SunBike

June 24, 2011

Electrical integration advisor Gregory Rodlico helping me build the SunBike.

SunBike Set to Launch This Summer Solstice

June 14, 2011

Imagining the SunBike at Park(ing) Day. Rendering by Keka Marzagao

After much preparation, the Sustainable Flatbush SunBike will make its debut at the Cortelyou Road Greenmarket on Sunday, June 26!  Stop by for a taste of sun-powered freshly-squeezed apple juice and find out how to use clean energy right now!

SF SunBike to Bring Power to the Streets

November 24, 2010

Solar Power That Is!


A rendering of the Sustainable Flatbush SunBike


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.


SF Intern Mark Miretsky and Energy Solutions Project Manager Jocelyn Cohen with our 10-watt charger at Park(ing) Day 2009


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!


The Neighborhood Energy Forum on Brooklyn Independent Television

April 15, 2010

I was proud to help organize Sustainable Flatbush’s Neighborhood Energy Forum on March 20 at Brooklyn College.  We are currently tracking twenty energy efficiency and renewable energy projects that got started at our event.

Brooklyn Independent Television really captured the spirit of the day.

An Off-Grid Educational Solar Array for a Flatbush Cafe

October 5, 2009


Here’s another great project from Sustainable Flatbush, a photovoltaic (solar-electric) system to provide night lighting for Vox Pop Cafe, on the corner of Cortelyou and Stratford.

The lamp, a replica of the Statue of Liberty and the second of its kind for the popular Flatbush gathering place, has a tumultuous history.  The original lamp was stolen from the front of the cafe earlier this summer.  On July 4, in a troubling turn of events, the thieves posted a video of an extremist-style “beheading” of the statue on YouTube.  A few weeks later, after the mobilization of many neighbors, a Manhattan restauranteur generously donated the second statue.  Here’s an article about Lady Liberty’s triumphant return home.

Vox Pop approached Sustainable Flatbush (SF) to turn the tragic incident into an opportunity to teach our community about the value of clean energy.  As the director of SF’s Energy Solutions Initiative, and general techtopia geek who likes to make things, I designed the system to keep the flame burning through the night even in the middle of winter.  In summer, there’ll be extra energy for cafe patrons to charge their laptops and keep their music pumping.  Local kids will help build, maintain and teach about the system. We’ll be building it early next year.

So without further adeiu, I present to you the People’s Voice Solar Array!

Get Charged Up

September 16, 2009

I finally put together the little charger I’ve been wanting to build since my Solar Energy Educator colleague Bill Rock showed me the one he made as a demonstration project with his students.   When Anne Pope, the executive director of my local sustainability organization Sustainable Flatbush, asked me to get some solar going at SF’s eco fair at the Flatbush Frolic this past Sunday,  I knew it was the perfect moment to break out my wire strippers, roll up my sleeves and blow a few fuses.


The original plan for this charger comes from a Popular Science DIY article from July 2007.  With guidance from Popular Science–and especially from Charlitron who shared his version of it with lots of illuminating supporting material—I present the Sustainable Flatbush Suncharger.

Stay tuned for much more detail for those of you who really want to build this thing!  Like, how do you solder a guitar plug onto a cigarette socket????

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10-watt photovoltaic (PV, aka solar-electric) panel:
Voltage: max. power 17.6V, open circuit 21.6V
Current: max. power 0.57A, short circuit 0.61A.
Pop Sci used a 5-watt panel, probably to keep costs down, but if I’m bothering to build it, I want to get more out of it! The charge controller can handle an even bigger panel, too.

12 amp-hours

4 amp charge controller:
I love this elegant little thing. Here is the spec sheet from the manufacturer. The charge controller keeps the battery from overcharging or discharging too deeply, both of which can ruin the battery.

The Pop Sci article used a 10A meter, which doesn’t do much when the panel is only rated at around .6 amps! If about .7 is all you’re going to get at peak power, then the 1 amp meter will do the trick.
In the video you’ll see that I used a cheap multimeter to measure current for now, but I’m going to add an analog panel meter like this one between the panel and the controller.  I’m also going to add a meter or two between the battery and the load to put numbers on what this baby can actually do.

I got connectors at Radio Shack.

Have fun!

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