Should Every Rooftop Install Solar Panels? | One Small Step | NowThis

– The future of cities could
be on this roof behind me, (air whooshing) where there are over 9,000 solar panels on 22 acres of buildings. But, right now all these panels only power 6% of this apartment complex's energy. So, I want to know, how do we bring more solar power to cities? To find out, I'm visiting Stuytown Solar, a project that doubled
Manhattan solar capacity. – We're a seventy year old community. And if we can do it, I know
that anybody can do it.

– Then I'll connect with Gilbert Campbell, who helps businesses
install solar prrojects. – Solar is growing at 12 times
faster than national economy. Solar has been a job generator. – I'm Lucy Biggers, and
this, is One Small Step. (upbeat music) Stuytown Solar is a huge project that covers the Stuyvesant
town apartment complex on the lower East side of Manhattan. The project includes 9,761 solar panels. That, plus investments
in energy efficiency and composting, have lowered this complex's footprint by 15%. Stuytown is owned by
investment firm, Blackstone, which put $11 million
into the solar project. I'm curious to see how the project works and how other buildings
can follow their lead. How long does something
like this have to run to actually offset the production cost of just the materials we're looking at? – About 180 days. – And you're past that now. – Yep, well past that. – All right. We're in the green. (laughs) – We're in the green, that's
right, we're in the green. – Kelly Vohs is the CEO of Beam Living, which runs the Stuyvesant town complex, which was built in 1947. And it's home to over 27,000 New Yorkers.

So how does it work? How
are you getting the energy from these panels into this building? – Pretty simple. They come down when it's sunny, it's a little cloudy today, which is okay, but when it's sunny, can
actually go on my phone and watch how much
energy is being created. And then it goes right into here, and back down into the main
panel in this building. – And then does that lower your
bill that you're paying for energy, that you would have
to buy off of the market? – There is a couple of ways to do it.

One of the ways is the way you described, where we consume that energy. And when you can couple
that with batteries, it becomes very powerful. Batteries in residential,
in New York City's a little challenging now. We're very bullish that
over time, that will change. Another way, which is a way we do it, is we provide the electricity
back to Con Edison, so they can use it, and it reduces the amount of energy that
New York City needs to use. – When you look at different
parts of the country, like there's areas like Arizona that are sunny 100% of the time, and here we're a little
bit more touch and go. Does that really lower
the efficiency of these because we don't have sun
every day of the year? – It's definitely a lower efficiency.

Doesn't make it not worth it. – You spent millions of
dollars to make this. And so did you crunch the
numbers and think that like, something like solar panels, even though it was only
lowering, you know, your energy consumption by 6%
was a good investment for you? – If it's not a actual return
on investment with, you know, percentage return on that money, sometimes there's just
the return on investment, and it's not always dollars. Sometimes it's about
doing the right thing. And sometimes about thinking
forward in what will be required both legally and
ethically in 10 years. – In June, 2019, New York
state passed legislation that requires electricity production to come from 70% renewable energy by 2030. And for all new buildings to include solar panels or green roofs. As of 2018, only 1% of New York's energy generation comes from solar. While nationally in 2019, almost 2% of energy generation came from solar. – We have a goal which is
called, the solar plus decade, which is basically to get
from 2% where we are now, to getting to 20% by 2030. – That's Gilbert Campbell. He's been working in
solar for over 10 years, and is the CEO of Volt energy, and on the board of the Solar
Energy Industries Association.

I think the thing about solar
is that it's so perfect, it's a free energy coming from the sun, but at the same time you have
these drawbacks, you know, the sun doesn't shine all the time. There's clouds, there's nighttime
and it's hard to store it. So how do you see solar
overcoming those big limitations on how much power it can produce? – Energy storage, I
think coupled with solar, is a great marriage. The energy storage technology
has gotten a lot better and you see more utilities
that are investing in energy storage projects. – What do you think is the
future of rooftop solar? It seems like a lot of your
projects have been on rooftop. – Rooftops work very well
because there's a lot of times property owners really have no use of it. And then solar fits perfectly there.

A lot of times, you know, you can't see it from the street level,
for those that don't want to see panels, I'm biased,
I think they look beautiful. The National Renewable
Energy Laboratory did a study that said if we were to utilize
even just small rooftops in the US, that would
be enough solar power to cover a year's worth of electricity for up to 121 million American households. – And just adding them onto something that we're not using anyway,
they're just sitting there.

– I know we're talking about rooftops, but our nation is also designed
around parking and cars. So, you know, that's another area where, when you look at parking
spaces and solar carports, it's another way where we
can also get to more solar. – 10 years from now, we
have 20% of the grid. Is there a situation where
we have like solar panels everywhere and we go, Oh
God, what have we done? – Just to kind of put you at ease, in order to provide enough
solar to the power the US, it would require 0.6% of available land.

I think that that is a
little bit overstated as far as the amount of available
space that we would need for solar to really make it. And that's the power of provide
all of our electric uses. – Having access to clean and
renewable energy like solar, is a key component of
social justice in the US. Leading environmental groups have shown that communities of
color disproportionately live near sources of toxic air pollution, exposing them to a higher
risk of health problems. – We've seen all this
played out from COVID.

Underserved communities have
had been hit the hardest by COVID-19, and a lot
of that's due to like, lung issues from breathing bad air. It's making investments
in communities of color. Making investments where coal
miners that had been worked so hard for so many
years to provide a living for their family, their
plants are being displaced. They need to be retooled for
the energy jobs of the future, but also have solar in a neighborhood. So I'm hoping we get away from
this being a partisan issue where it's really an American issue. – What's one small step
that people can take to bring more solar to their communities? – Get involved in local politics.

We have to leverage our
collective voice to say, you know what, this makes sense for us. You gotta put smart people
in office that understand that we've got to make
those smart investments for our future generations. – From speaking with Kelly and Gilbert, I now understand how solar
power is just a piece of the pie of decarbonizing our energy system. If we want to have a chance at preventing the worst impacts of climate change, we also need policy, energy storage, a modernized grid, and more. Batteries are also an area where we need to see advancements. And I'd love to do an entire
video exploring that topic. But for now, that's all for this episode. Thank you so much for watching
and I'll see you next time. Bye. You get a solar panel,
you get a solar panel, you get a solar panel, you
get a solar panel, you, you, you get a solar panel.
Everyone gets a solar panel..

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