(Photo courtesy of Brooklyn Navy Yard)
One Brooklyn entrepreneur imagines a city in which neighbors are producing and buying electricity from each other through solar panels mounted on roofs.
Right now there are plenty of solar panels, but their utility is pretty much limited to the people who own them. Most renters are not going to ask their landlords to put panels on the roof and install a system, and even if they would, a lot of roofs aren’t cut out for it. But it doesn’t have to be that way, and the federal government just put a full $1 million behind startup ProjectEconomics to fix that.
“What we do is facilitate people participating in solar,” explained the company’s director, Chris Barrett, by phone recently. “As a renter, I could participate in community solar that was built maybe on a warehouse in Bushwick. There would be discounts on the ConEd bill to reflect the participation in that.”
The concept is called “community solar” and it’s the idea that power plants don’t have to be centrally located and owned by utility companies. There could be one on the flat roof of the grocery store down the street that provides power for the houses around it, or on the roof of an office building which supplies the companies inside with energy.
What ProjectEconomics does is build and deploy the software to integrate these mini power generators into the existing utility systems, Barrett, whose startup is located at the ACRE cleantech incubator (part of the NYU Future Labs), explained. One of the hurdles of adopting community solar is simply having a user interface that makes it simple enough for people to get on board.
“We envision a point where everyone can go solar easily even if they can’t put panels on their roof,” Barrett explained. “We really identify trends across industries with shared services where people are expecting easy access.”
The federal money comes from the Department of Energy and was awarded to ProjectEconomics after a successful two-round Small Business Innovation Research program.-30-
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