Trio of bills introduced in New York City to mandate solar, wind or plants on new buildings

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When California passed its landmark change to building codes to require solar PV on nearly all new residential buildings, we wondered how long it would be until other jurisdictions followed suit.

It turns out that such efforts were already in the works in the nation’s most populous city. Yesterday Councilmember Rafael Espinal (D-Brooklyn) introduced a bill in the New York City Council that would require that all new offices, industrial facilities and storage units host either PV modules, small wind turbines, plant covering, or any combination of the three.

This legislation promotes energy efficient building practices, as green roofs filter pollutants and add agricultural space, solar roofs encourage renewable energy generation and reduce air pollution and small wind turbines generate heat and electric power in an environmentally conscious manner,” notes the bill’s summary.

And this is not the only effort that has been made. Last fall and winter Councilmember Donovan Richards (D-Queens) introduced two bills (here and here) that would mandate the roofs of other kinds of buildings to be partially covered in plants or PV modules; according to the New York Times these bills would apply respectively to residential buildings and community sites including schools, libraries, post offices and hospitals.

All of these bills are currently in the council’s Committee on Housing and Buildings, and it is unclear how much support these efforts have from the rest of the 51-member council. They appear to be the work of a cohort of environmentally-conscious councilmembers from the outer boroughs; Espinal co-sponsored one of Richards’ bills, and four other Democrats from Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island have joined various bills as co-sponsors.

There are other barriers unique to rooftop solar in New York City. As explored in an article in pv magazine’s print edition, installers have struggled with the process of obtaining permits from the city’s Department of Buildings. And while many have reported significant improvements since that article was published, there is still the matter of a six-foot setback required by the New York Fire Department on flat-roofed buildings. This is larger than that in other cities and greatly limits the square footage available for rooftop solar.