Last August, Governor Paterson signed a series of bills to allow commercial net metering installations across New York State. Previously, only residential users were allowed to generate their own electricity from renewable sources and sell it back into the grid. The first such commercial installation in New York City was recently commissioned at 925 Bergen Street in Brooklyn by solar power installer Solar Energy Systems (SES) for Big Sue LLC, a general contracting and consulting firm that specializes in green design-build projects, which owns and operates the property.
The installation is a 40 kilowatt solar array and, according to SES, is the largest commercial net-metered photovoltaic system in the entire country. According to Big Sue co-owner Susan Boyle, the company investigated a number of alternative power sources for 925 Bergen before opting for the solar array because of “the simplicity afforded by net metering.”
50,000-square-foot 925 Bergen Street dates from the 1880s and was formerly known as the Budweiser (later Nassau) Brewery. It currently offers 25 commercial units for lease that range in size from 500 to 4500 square feet. In addition to the solar array, the building includes a variety of green retrofits ranging from radiant heating, low-VOC paints and sealants, salvaged lighting and water fixtures, and locally-sourced materials to a 4000-square-foot green roof. In 2004, Big Sue completed a green renovation of 1024 Dean Street – which once served as the ice house for the Nassau Brewery at 925 Bergen – into six residential units and received a number of green building awards in doing so from both the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce and the New York City Green Building Design Competition.
The applicable legislation, which was enacted as Senate Bill 7171, allows net metering for commercial systems up to 2 megawatts in capacity. It also increases the maximum system size for residential installations from 10 to 25 kilowatts. In addition, for building owners that install solar power systems, Senate Bill 8145 (which applies only to New York City) allows for a four-year real property tax abatement of up to $62,500.00 per year.