Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer came to Hunter College on Thursday, January 26, with a powerful idea: New York should install solar panels on the roofs of its 1,094 public schools, a project that would eliminate nearly 77,000 tons of carbon from the city’s air each year, save taxpayers millions in energy costs and create 5,400 green jobs.
The borough president took his idea to the top – the roof of the North Building where he held an afternoon press conference to unveil his proposal. The site was chosen because of the array of solar panels installed there last summer through collaborative efforts by the Hunter administration, CUNY and the Hunter Sustainability Project. Joining Stringer were Council Member Dan Garodnick, Danielle Amodeo, a senior at Hunter and president of the Hunter Sustainability Project, and Professor Allan Frei, the project’s academic advisor and an expert in environmental studies and climate change. The solar panels got to the North roof thanks to a determined drive by HSP that raised $70,000 from a variety of sources, including $17,500 from Hunter College and $16, 500 from Hunter’s undergraduate student government. The panels went on line last summer and are now feeding three kilowatts of energy into the Hunter grid – enough so far to power 40 houses for one day. Professor Frei said that while this is small when measured against the city’s enormous power demands, “It demonstrates that people with roofs in this city can use them for an environmentally positive purpose.”
Borough President Stringer believes that in addition to the other benefits, placing solar panels on city school tops will teach students invaluable environmental lessons. HSP and Frei agree about the educational value of such projects and plan to start conducting tours of Hunter’s panels for students and visitors. “Over time we will have thousands of eyes on the roof seeing that solar energy is practical and attainable,” Frei said.