Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in New York City

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No one will deny that New York City is one of the primary tech entrepreneurship hubs of the United States. Home to the largest population in the nation, it is not only a melting pot of different ethnicities, religions, and races, but also one of the main financial, cultural, and entertainment capitals in the United States (possibly even the world as well). Because New York City is a leader in most things, it would prove beneficial to become a leader in the clean technology industry as well. New York City is always looking for ways to decrease its use of fossil fuels, increase use of renewable energy, and boost environmental sustainability for generations to come. The city, for example, has looked into creating off-shore wind farms, generating energy from its 16 wastewater treatment plants, and deploying solar on capped landfills and brownfields. Here are just a few of the highlights of New York City and its work to become more cleantech friendly.

1 ) NYC’s MTA Goes Green. The Metropolitan Transit Authority, commonly referred to throughout the streets of New York City as the MTA, is looking to create a number of viable plans for brand new clean technology initiatives. This include the use of solar and wind power, the creation of green roofs, management of water, as well as regenerative breaking. At the MTA runs a majority of the city’s rail, subway, and bus systems, daily usage of energy totals around 600 megawatts. These clean technology initiatives are a way to make the MTA much more energy efficient, while at the same time saving the MTA thousands of dollars annually. The MTA’s current goal is to have a minimum of 14 percent of its energy generated through the use of tidal and wind energy.

2 ) Taxis are Getting on the Path to Green. One of the primary symbols that everyone associates with New York City is the yellow taxi cabs. It is hard not to notice the ‘sea’ of yellow taxi cabs that flood the streets of the city all throughout the day. As such, the city has taken notice regarding the quantity of emissions all the taxis generate on a daily basis. Therefore, the New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission Board of Commissioners decided to create a brand new financial incentive program that will increase the total sum of taxi cabs that are fuel efficient and environmentally friendly. Drivers of the new fuel efficient taxis will save approximately $5,000 per year. The objective is to have a fleet of fully hybrid taxis by the close of 2012.

3 ) PlanNYC. Established in 2007 by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, PlanNYC is the effort of the entire city to strengthen its economy, enhance quality of life, and combat climate change. Over 25 various city agencies have been brought together with one plan in mind – ‘green’ New York City. Since PlanNYC went into effect, a number of new parks have been created while existing parks were improved, public transportation has been increased thereby lowering the dependence of having personal vehicles, and laws have been put into effect regarding energy efficiency in new and existing buildings. After PlanNYC took effect, greenhouse gas emissions have decreased to more than 13 percent (2005 levels).

4 ) NYC Green Infrastructure Plan. Mayor Michael Bloomberg created the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan in September 2010 to improve water quality. This is to be done by increasing the amount of green infrastructure, including the use of green swales and roofs, and increasing investments at making traditional infrastructure more cost-effective in terms of water use and quality.

5 ) ThinkEco and Con Edison Advance A/C Monitoring and Controls. This summer ThinkEco, Inc. worked with Con Edison to develop and deploy energy-management technology for New York City’s six million window air conditioners.

The innovation, which integrates Con Edison’s intellectual property, expands the capabilities of ThinkEco’s flagship product, the modlet®. The patent-pending modlet—short for modern outlet—is the first intelligent outlet that saves businesses and consumers money by reducing energy waste from plugged-in appliances. ThinkEco has already launched the modlet to business customers across the US and introduced it to residential customers in earlier this year. During peak load days, when New York City set a new record with over 13,000MW of demand, the window AC modlet made these air-conditioning units demand response ready and helped consumers to use electricity more wisely.

6 ) NYCEEC. A new program to promote energy efficiency in New York City buildings has recently launched, giving building owners and tenants something to look forward to.

The program — the New York City Energy Efficiency Corporation (NYCEEC) — was designed by the city’s Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability in collaboration with the Center for Market Innovation (CMI) and Deutsche Bank’s Community Development Financing group. And Susan Leeds, who has extensive capital markets experience and formerly worked with CMI, has been named its founding chief executive officer.

The corporation, an independent nonprofit, is funded with $37.5 million in seed money from the federal stimulus package. This, along with philanthropic contributions and private sector capital, will be used to provide up-front capital in a variety of forms for energy retrofits in commercial buildings and low-income housing. NYCEEC will be able to provide a range of credit enhancements and innovative capital structures in order to make financing of energy efficiency readily available, and at attractive cost to borrowers. The corporation will also serve as an information center, providing know-how on carrying out retrofits and navigating existing financing and technical programs. And, it will work to increase demand from building owners for retrofits to create a large-scale retrofit industry, and the jobs that come with it.

7 ) NYC ACRE. Short for the New York City Accelerator for a Clean and Renewable Economy, NYC ACRE aids renewable energy and clean energy companies throughout New York City as they try to grow, expand, and help in advancing the city as a national (and international) role model for smart growth and environmental sustainability. Some of the sectors NYC ACRE works with include energy distribution and transmission, waste to energy, energy storage, building systems, smart grid, advanced metering infrastructure, lighting, energy management, efficiency services and products, sustainable architecture, green roofs, transportation, water management, and so on.

8 ) Empire State Building Goes Green. In January of 2011, the people in charge of taking care of the Empire State Building made an announcement that it plans to turn the building into a source of renewable energy. The building has undergone many renovations, making it one of the largest green building retrofitting projects in the United States. As such, it is now the largest commercial buyer of renewable energy in the city. The Empire State Building will be using approximately 55 million kilowatt hours worth of renewable energy annually, saving the building 100 million pounds in greenhouse gas emissions annually.

9 ) Using Sewage as Renewable Energy. In 2011, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection started looking into using sewage treatment plans to possibly create renewable energy sources. Rather than looking to reduce cost and disposal of sewage, like other cities, New York City is looking at it as an untapped resource. From the sludge, heating fuel can be extracted. The treatment plans can then sell the methane gas, which can then be used to power homes throughout the five boroughs. Because the city creates 1,200 tons of sludge daily, this would be a great way to recoup the costs and make the environment better.

10 ) The Brooklyn Bridge Goes Green. In April of 2011, one of the most iconic structures in all of New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge, looked to get a green makeover. It started with the inclusion of a brand new solar powered electric vehicle charging station. It is the very first one in all of New York City. The charging station is the latest endeavor in the bridge’s attempt to increase green energy and reduce carbon dioxide emissions. The charging station was provided by Beautiful Earth Group, a renewable energy company that is based in Brooklyn.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com.

About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.