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Solar Energy in Co-ops and Condos

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How can owners, shareholders and tenants do to limit greenhouse emissions from residential buildings? Society needs a shift to ensure that housing is both environmentally responsible and economically efficient – sustainable for the future. Ideally, co-ops and condos would produce more energy than they use by slowly eradicating the reliance on fossil fuels and incorporating new technology such as solar panels. But how efficient is it to rely on solar energy in cities and realistically how much energy can they produce for co-ops and condos?

The most common way individuals collect solar energy is by using solar panels on the exterior or roof of a building. Although the panels absorb energy from the sun, it does not necessarily have to be hot for the panels to function. Brian Haug, a specialist in this field, explained to The Cooperator, that “cold doesn’t hurt the efficiency of solar energy … [a]s a matter of fact, solar works better when it’s cooler.”[1]

The problem facing co-ops and condos in New York is the limited amount of space on rooftops to place solar panels. It would be more efficient to have new developments designed with sleek solar panels onto the building’s exterior and roof so that they do not take up any space. However, some rooftops are small in general, and even if the solar panels were integrated into the building, there may not be enough surface area to absorb an adequate amount of energy. However, new technology innovations are making these panels more efficient. For instance, micro-inverters continue to generate energy even when part of the panel is in the shade. This is proven to be beneficial in cities, particularly for residential buildings with limited space.

So how much energy can realistically be replaced by solar? This ranges from approximately ten to fifteen percent.[2] Energy collected by solar panels for co-ops and condos typically will be used for the common areas of the building. The solar energy generated will reverse the amount of energy used, which is indicated on the meter. Generally, the building’s energy provider will record what energy has been put back and credit the building at the end of the year.

Although solar panels can be expensive, they cut costs in the long run. The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority even provides subsidized financing incentives for solar installations under $50,000. Co-ops may even be able to refinance their mortgage or take out a second mortgage or line of credit to afford the cost of solar panel installations. Condos on the other hand may obtain a loan, but may have a lien on the building’s reserves.

[1] Sidransky, A.J. (Sept. 2018) “Available at: Accessed on Sept. 14, 2018.

[2] Ib.

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