Fifth Ave. Committee teams up with Gowanus Grid & Electric for new project
By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Apartment buildings in several Brooklyn neighborhoods will be fitted with solar panels to provide tenants with heat and electricity under an ambitious project sponsored through a partnership between two forward-thinking Brooklyn-based organizations.
The Fifth Avenue Committee (FAC) and Gowanus Grid & Electric (GGE), a community solar developer, announced that they have selected Brooklyn Solar Works (BSW) to install solar capabilities on FAC-owned affordable housing buildings.
The solar project, called FAC Solar, will lower the cost of energy for low-income families living in FAC buildings, according to Kedin Kilgore, a principal of Gowanus Grid & Electric.
“We estimate that it will save a family between $5 and $7 a month. That may not sound like much at first, but it adds up over time,” Kilgore told the Brooklyn Eagle. Kilgore is also the solar project’s lead developer.
The first stage of the installation calls for solar panels to be placed in 21 buildings in Park Slope, Gowanus and Prospect Heights. The first phase would bring cost savings to approximately 300 in those apartment houses, Kilgore said.
FAC Executive Director Michelle de la Uz said the idea is to provide solar power to low-income families who would have difficulty affording it of they had to install it on their own.
“By focusing on directly serving residents, FAC is providing affordable solar power to families who could not otherwise benefit from locally produced energy,” de la Uz said in a statement.
The project is a necessity given the affordable housing crunch in Brooklyn and in other parts of New York City, according to de la Uz.
“FAC Solar is a direct response to rising energy costs and the pressures on keeping housing affordable to low income families in New York City. The FAC Solar project also addresses the need for environmental equity and advances our efforts to be a part of the movement for community-scale renewable energy projects. The project will also help us prepare FAC tenants for major weather-driven emergencies and protect our most at-risk neighbors from the impacts of climate change,” de la Uz stated.
BSW was selected following a competitive RFP run for FAC Solar by Solar One, a nonprofit organization that provides solar project technical assistance to affordable housing projects.
FAC is a nonprofit community development corporation that develops and manages affordable housing.
In 2017, FAC Solar received a $250,000 grant from Citi Foundation to begin developing the solar project. The funding helped support the initial planning stages of the project, according to FAC. The monies will also be used to allow FAC Solar to start the Solar Installation Workforce Development Training Program, which will operate through Brooklyn Workforce Innovations and Solar One.
The job training will give people new opportunities for employment, according to FAC.
“The Fifth Avenue Committee’s Solar Project demonstrates how community-based organizations can work together to ease the burden on financially vulnerable residents by lowering their electrical bills,” said Eileen Auld, New York Tri-State market director for Citi Community Development.
FAC is grateful for the grant because it allowed the organization to get a jump-start on the solar installation program, de la Uz said.
FAC made news last year when the organization was awarded a $125,000 grant from the TD Charitable Foundation’s Housing for Everyone grant competition for its innovative design for the rebuilding the Sunset Park Library.
Under the FAC development project, the library, located at 5108 Fourth Ave., will be completely rebuilt and 49 units of residential housing will be constructed at the site.
FAC plans to construct an eight-story building at the Fourth Avenue site.
The library renovation project was developed in partnership by FAC, the Brooklyn Public Library and the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development (HPD).
The project marks the first time a public library and affordable housing units will be sharing the same space.
Gowanus Grid & Electric has also gained attention for its efforts to bring solar energy to low-income residents.
The organization received a Solar in Your Community Challenge Seed Grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) in 2017.
The grant, which is awarded through a nationwide competition, is designed to provide technical assistance to solar project developers working on multifamily affordable housing units.