16 Mar

We Don’t Call ‘Em Supers for Nothing

David Sachs o&m
David Sachs with wrench
The author, David Sachs, in an NYC mechanical room

We regularly visit buildings across New York City to diagnose problems with their mechanical and steam systems.  But one visit impacted me in an unexpected way. Typical of many multifamily buildings scattered across the City, it is a pre-war masonry apartment building. The super was friendly and gave me access to the entire basement, as I requested. He also said that he would be in the office if I needed anything.

As I went about my routine, I noticed one of the main steam pipes led straight into his office. When I approached the office to do my testing, I saw two pairs of shoes in the doorway – one of which I assumed belonged to the barefoot super, and the other likely belonged to a porter or a friend. Opening the door, I saw them both sitting on a couch watching a soap opera.

I paused for a moment, perplexed by the fact that the floor seemed to be at least as dirty as the bottom of my shoes, and I’m ashamed to admit that I wondered why the building super was lounging around watching TV with his buddy at 3:00 pm while I was sweating in the boiler room, trying to improve their building.

But when I noticed that the nearly windowless adjacent room had a bed and a dresser, it occurred to me that their shoes were off because this dingy basement “office” isn’t merely an office, it is this man’s living room. The bathroom, with no ventilation, is where he gets ready in the morning, and the dusty, moldy, water-bug inhabited corridor in which I was standing is the entrance hallway of his home. (Of course, living in a NYC basement has its upsides too; this super’s several thousand square foot “apartment” is spacious enough for a ping-pong table, a bench press, and anything else he could ever want.)

I took off my shoes and entered the office, careful to work as respectfully as I would if I were entering anyone’s home, wondering how many of my friends and family could tolerate such living or working conditions. Then I realized that I had greatly misjudged the situation. Yes, he was socializing and watching TV during the workday, but his workday isn’t 9-5 or even 8-7. When a toilet gets clogged, ice freezes on the stairs, trash needs to be taken out, or a resident is looking for a punching bag to hit with complaints, he is working to resolve those issues and make his residents feel comfortable and safe, day or night. So what if he takes some breaks during the day?

As I left, I noticed a large crowbar near the door. Now, it is entirely possible the super had casually placed it there after using it, but it is much more likely that its placement was intentional as a ready-to-use defense weapon. After all, his front door is also the basement entrance. And in fact, it is common to see baseball bats, machetes and other weapons stashed in these basements, even in neighborhoods most people would consider safe.

I don’t presume to know anything about this man’s personal life or whether he is happy with his job, and I certainly don’t mean to imply that all building staff have the same situation.  But what I do know is that it is the building staff who keep our basic needs met, who deal with the repugnant rodent or insect in our apartments, and who can often be our first line of defense against intruders. 

This experience was an important reminder to me of how critical their jobs are in making our lives livable and how easy it might be to overlook their real value. They should be respected, not pitied or judged.  And particularly during these cold winter months, it’s important to remember to be grateful to one’s building staff, both at work and at home, and perhaps even to flash a friendly smile the next time we see them.

08 Mar

Bright Employee: Colleen Woodson

Bright Power Bright Employee

Colleen WoodsonWe’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Meet Colleen Woodson, Chief of Staff.

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
EnergyScoreCards Minnesota is definitely on this list. That was a 2-year research project where we got to study 500 properties to determine if hands-on benchmarking results in energy and water savings in buildings. (Spoiler: it does!) It was an awesome experience to work with amazing partners and participants. You can read more about EnergyScoreCards Minnesota here.

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
People may not know I’m a mechanical engineer. I think my engineering background helped me learn about solving problems of all kinds. Understanding parameters, stating assumptions, and methodically working through a problem is a skill that’s been useful to apply in lots of scenarios.

What’s the one service offering we have that you think is the most beneficial to clients and why?
That’s an unfair question! Our services are most valuable to clients when they are combined with one another. Serving our clients with all the expertise we have in-house – engineering, data, analysis, software, procurement, new construction, on-site generation – is what makes us unique and able to provide more value to our clients.

You were promoted to Chief of Staff after managing the Energy Analysis team for 2 years last summer. How did your experience leading the Energy Analysis team prepare you for this role?
Being a part of, and then managing, the Energy Analysis (EA) team gave me a great perspective on the whole company. The EA team interacts with every team at Bright Power on many types of projects. Seeing first-hand the communication between EAs, Software Development, Account Managers, East and West Coast engineering Teams, and our internal Operations team – I saw a lot of diverse needs and situations. Working on processes for the Energy Analyst team naturally meant I had to understand other teams’ processes and needs, which really prepared me for the unique challenges as Chief of Staff: coordinating the diverse needs of the organization while effectively communicating across the company.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, what advice can you give to women starting their careers in the energy industry?
Oh boy, I could give a lot of advice! Here are two that come to mind:

  • Ask for feedback. The way feedback works in a work environment is drastically different from how it works at school, and I’ve found that to be one of the harder adjustments for folks early in their career. Get in the habit of asking your manager, coworkers, and clients what they thought of the work you delivered, and then be open and receptive to their response!  The more specific, the easier it will be for both of you. Try out asking questions like: “Was that email clear and concise enough?” and “Would you have gone about this any differently?”
  • Surround yourself with diverse examples. Look for people (ladies, especially look for other women!) who have made different decisions about their lives and careers, and talk to them. When I took on a promotion after returning from maternity leave, I spoke to women who made different decisions about taking on more responsibility while they had young children. Having different (see a trend?) real-life examples helped me imagine what it would be like to make that decision, feel confident that I could make the right decision, and that all of these options were possible! In real life! When it’s time to make a big decision, I strongly encourage you to take stock of the people you know and purposely seek out a diversity of experience. It helps to have reference points in many directions to really imagine the range of possibilities for yourself.
20 Feb

Update to New York Local Law 84

Bright Power benchmarking, LL84 Tags: , ,

UPDATED February 20, 2018:

The City has lifted the May 1, 2018 deadline and mandate for benchmarking buildings between 25,000 and 50,000 sq ft but also strongly recommends complying anyway.  While the deadline has been lifted for this May, the City will require submission in 2019.

Benchmarking provides key insights on how buildings are performing at a specific point in time and how their performance compares to historical data.  When paired with a service like EnergyScoreCards, benchmarking becomes a strategic tool that unlocks areas of opportunity for energy and water efficiency optimization and savings.  It also sheds light on how a building’s performance compares to similar buildings in the same region.  


We will benchmark any 25k to 50k buildings that have been identified in collaboration with our clients – not only will they have baseline data ahead of their peers, but they will be prepared should the City require submission later in 2018.


October 24, 2017

For the first time, owners of mid-size buildings above 25,000 square feet in New York will be required to submit their annual benchmarking reports. The Greener, Greater Buildings Plan approved this legislation last October and will go into effect next submission deadline, May 1, 2018.

Required buildings failing to report their energy and water data will receive a violation from the Department of Buildings and be fined $500 for each quarter of non-compliance, up to $2,000 per year.

Learn more about the changes here.

Other cities and states with local benchmarking policies can be found on Building Rating.

Have a building above 25,000 square feet that needs benchmarking?  Reach out to your Account Manager or contact us as soon as possible so we can ensure you are in compliance.



13 Feb

New Construction Commissioning: Protecting Your Investment

Andrea Mancino new construction Tags:
Tom Walsh, a Bright Power Commissioning Agent, measuring pipe temperature while performing functional performance testing on a boiler

New York City requires commissioning (Cx) for most* ground-up new construction projects through the 2014 and 2016 energy codes** to build better buildings and protect owners/developers. But if you’re like many NYC developers we know, you may have mixed feelings about commissioning and are not sure what the real benefit is to you.  

In the past, someone may have tried to explain commissioning to you in complex engineering terms that just left you frustrated, confused, or uninterested.  We recognize that there is a lot of confusion about what exactly commissioning is, and there are many services that fall under the banner of “commissioning,” not all of which provide value beyond checking boxes.  This blog will break down the commissioning process and how it can deliver maximum value to you and your projects.

Through quality commissioning, you will see tangible benefits such as cost savings in construction and operations of the building, longer life of the equipment and systems, as well as increased comfort and happiness of the future residents (and staff!).

Commissioning’s Role in Your Project

Commissioning is an essential quality assurance process that helps ensure all systems are designed optimally, installed correctly, and operate accordingly at the time of occupancy.  Your Commissioning Agent manages all aspects of the process.

If done correctly, commissioning will save owners and developers the money and hassle by identifying and fixing problems long before a building is ever occupied. Far from being an annoying box to check in order to comply with code, commissioning is a crucial element of each project.

The purpose of commissioning is to make sure that the building you ultimately get meets the expectations you had for it at the start.  For maximum benefit, commissioning should be performed in three phases that extend throughout the planning and construction process: Design Phase, Construction Phase, and Pre-Occupancy Phase.

A Great Commissioning Agent

Your Commissioning Agent (Cx Agent) serves as an owner’s representative for mechanical, plumbing, and electrical systems. The Cx Agent is a commissioning expert who you can trust to confirm quality, and thus should be integrated early on during the design development to perform reviews and offer feedback to the MEP Engineer.  (S)he asks the essential questions that clarify the intentions of the building and ensures design decisions will achieve those objectives:

  • What type of population will it serve?  
  • What temperatures do you want to supply to residents?  
  • What services or amenities will be on site?  
  • How will you staff the building once it is operational?
  • Are the step-by-step sequence of operations of each piece of equipment appropriate?
  • Are piping and duct layouts optimal?
  • Will this equipment be serviced appropriately and accessed easily down the line?
  • How can systems be designed to increase energy efficiency and savings?

You know you are working with a great Cx Agent if (s)he:

  • Gets the project’s big picture yet, at the same time, is detail oriented.
  • Anticipates challenges before they arise, often during the design phase.
  • Reviews any suggested changes to the design to make sure they don’t cause unforeseen problems before the construction phase.
  • Becomes a familiar face at the construction site, coordinating with the construction team to deliver quality and that all milestones are hit in a timely fashion.
  • Is a clear, powerful communicator, providing clients with regular updates, and logs.

If a quote for commissioning is significantly cheaper than others, be wary.  Do they have the necessary experience?  Will they be in design meetings and on site often enough to have a positive impact on both the design and its execution?  As with most anything else in life, you get what you pay for. Mistakes in the short term can lead to expensive complications later when tenants have already moved in.  

Design Phase

The design phase is critical to the commissioning process. There are a lot of complexities in designing and constructing a building, and it’s important to realize that just because the design makes sense on paper does not mean it will translate that way in construction. For example, a good Cx Agent will suggest locations of isolation valves, sensors, and potential access points to enable the ability for continuous commissioning and the isolation of system components. The Cx agent will also verify that the access panels, piping, and ductwork are designed in a way that will allow for easy maintenance access.  Having a Cx Agent ensure the design meets the intentions of the building through a collaborative process allows everyone to create the best design possible, from all areas of expertise.  It can also save you a lot of money in the construction phase.

Unfortunately, there is only so much a Cx Agent can do if they are brought on during construction. Each time Bright Power was brought on to a project after the design phase, we found significant components of design that were either overcomplicated (and therefore more expensive than necessary to install and maintain), detrimental to optimal equipment function, or were installed in a way that prevents basic access (ex: no access hatches).  Had we been involved from the project’s inception, those problems would have been identified and eliminated before the construction phase, resulting in significant savings and fewer headaches.

You might be tempted to blame such issues on the MEP or the architect.  But, having worked with dozens of great design teams with top-notch professionals, I can attest that this level of collaboration necessary to avoid these sorts of problems.   

Construction Phase

During construction, the Cx Agent will work with your General Contractor and HVAC subcontractors to ensure equipment installation is correct and the start-up and operation of the equipment is optimized to the design. This requires a great deal of coordination and trust between all parties involved. The Cx Agent is there to help provide a good outcome on behalf of the whole team – not to step on anyone’s toes. To do that, they must be on site during all key points in the construction process.

Just imagine the frustration of having to open up a wall to fix a mistake when it could have been caught and corrected by the Cx Agent if they were on site.  That’s not only frustrating for you, the owner, but it’s also frustrating for the team who just had to rip out completed work only to do it all again, the right way.

Once the equipment is operational, the Cx Agent will perform a series of functional performance tests designed to diagnose problems that could pop up during occupancy. If any issues are found, the Cx Agent will list them in a log and work with the relevant parties to correct the issues. The kinds of things that we have found and corrected through functional performance tests include fans installed backward; sensors in the wrong place that produce inaccurate readings; ductwork that was not properly attached, resulting in rooms with extremely cold and hot temperatures.

If the Cx Agent has done her/his job, all of the building’s equipment will have been installed correctly. While this doesn’t sound exciting, think of it this way: you just spent millions of dollars on a project that took years of careful planning, coordination, and execution. If the final step – occupancy – would be held up for a few months due to equipment issues, that delay would be both costly and maddening.

But that’s nothing compared to the hair-pulling frustration that would result from learning that commissioning typically represents less than 0.25% of a new construction project’s total cost, whereas fixing a commissioning mistake can cost you millions of dollars (and you might need to put up your new residents in a hotel while you sort out the issue).

Pre-Occupancy Phase

The final phase of commissioning is to train your building site-staff so that diagnostic, operational, and maintenance procedures are second nature. As your Cx Agent, we work with your contractors to produce a training curriculum for your building operators. (S)he will then film the training for future use.

Protect Your Investment

There’s a reason why energy code requires commissioning in the first place — to build better buildings. Rather than being a trivial added upfront cost, commissioning is a critical process to protect your investment.  Take it from our clients: It’s one of the best investments you can make on your new construction project.

Still have commissioning questions?  Our experts are here to answer any of your energy and water-related questions. Contact us today!



*Exceptions include mechanical and service hot water systems in buildings where the total mechanical equipment capacity being installed is less than 480,000 Btu/h (140.7 kW) cooling capacity and 600,000 Btu/h (175.8 kW) combined service water-heating and space-heating capacity.

**The commissioning requirements in the NYC energy code are primarily for testing and report generation during the Construction Phase. However, in order to maximize the economic and building performance benefits of commissioning, industry best practices recommend a comprehensive commissioning process that covers all phases.

13 Feb

Bright Employee: Jamie Bemis

Bright Power affordable housing, Bright Employee

Jamie Bemis Bright PowerWe’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Meet Jamie Bemis, Account Manager.

What are some of the things you like most about working at Bright Power?
I love the work we do here. It’s creative and challenging, and it’s closely aligned with my values. As an Account Manager with affordable and supportive housing clients in New York City, I get to wake up every day and feel like I am contributing to making the City a more resilient and sustainable place. Because I am passionate about mitigating the impacts of climate change, as well as social and environmental justice, it’s really gratifying to see our projects reduce utility burdens on low-income residents in NYC, and directly contribute to the city’s greenhouse gas reduction goal of 80% below 2005 levels by 2050. Today, cities across the globe are taking the lead towards climate change mitigation and adaptation. I’m proud to say Bright Power is helping NYC to be a leader in this effort by ensuring all new buildings we work on are built to the highest standard of building performance and each existing building we touch becomes more energy and water efficient.

What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
I am proud of all of our clients, many of whom do not have a background in energy efficiency and sustainability, but who nevertheless spearhead innovative projects that incorporate cutting-edge techniques around high-performance building design and on-site generation. For instance, St. Nick’s Alliance just won the Housing Preservation and Development (HPD) RFP for Dekalb Commons in Brooklyn. Two of the buildings will be certified Passive House and will include rooftop solar PV systems. This will be St. Nick’s first Passive House project, demonstrating a willingness to try new things and push the envelope around high-performance building design. I find it particularly inspiring to see these types of projects in the affordable housing sector, where budgets are always tight. A few years ago, developers and city officials would have said that affordable housing couldn’t be designed with high-performance techniques due to the cost and the lack of expertise in the industry. Thankfully, this conversation has shifted dramatically in the past few years, and we’re seeing more and more developers, architects, and engineers who are excited about the opportunity to create innovative, beautiful, healthy, and sustainable residences for low-income New Yorkers. The Dekalb Commons project is a perfect example of this.I am also proud to work closely with Settlement Housing Fund, the Related Companies, Mutual Housing Association of New York (MHANY), RiseBoro Community Partnership, Banana Kelly, Workforce Housing, B&B Urban, among others.

What’s something people might not know about you and your role at Bright Power?
A lot of people don’t know that I am a mechanical engineer. After college, I worked for an MEP firm designing HVAC systems for mission critical facilities like clean rooms and laboratories. Later, in graduate school, I conducted research for the Sustainable Design Lab in MIT’s Building Technology Department. I was the only city planning student in our research group. I loved translating our building-specific research techniques onto urban-scale problems, especially trying to address the immense challenge of creating more sustainable coastal cities. Now, my engineering background allows me to have informed conversations with clients as well as with Bright Power’s engineering team.

What’s the one service offering we have that you think is the most beneficial to clients and why?
I think our New Construction (NC) service is particularly beneficial. Capturing energy efficiency opportunities during a renovation or a new construction project is a huge opportunity that is too often missed. Investments in energy efficiency during the design phase pay dividends over the life of the building, in terms of reduced O&M costs, utility cost savings, and tenant comfort and well-being. The subject matter expertise our NC team brings is critical. From Passive House to Enterprise Green Communities and more, they understand the cutting edge of green design techniques—many of which are constantly evolving—and bring this to design teams. In this capacity, our clients can rely on us to provide strategic advice that incorporates cost-effectiveness, long-term impacts, indoor air quality, maintenance concerns, risk management, and more. Part of the reason we have so many returning clients is that once they see the value of this service, they return over and over again. It’s one of my favorite services to sell because for me it’s such a no-brainer for our clients.

We hear you’re going to Germany – what are you going to do there?
Yes! In March I will be traveling to Germany as a McCloy Fellow (a transatlantic professional exchange program sponsored by the American Council on Germany) to study innovations in the built environment and climate change mitigation efforts. My hope is to meet with individuals from across the industry to explore how cities are responding to the needs of a changing climate. To answer this question, I will look at three specific consequences of global warming: global migration and growing urban populations; the shift to green energy supply and distribution; and green building design. By exploring how these specific issues are being addressed in local communities across Germany, I will gain insight on best practices, lessons learned, and key strategies that can be implemented here in the United States. I used to live in Germany, so for me, this is both an opportunity to learn from the cutting edge of our profession, while also a return to my roots in some ways. And I am thrilled to be bringing new subject matter expertise to all of our clients at Bright Power so that we can continue to push the envelope here in New York and build residences that are fit for the 21st century. You can read more about my trip here

01 Feb

Bright One at Work: Jamie Bemis’s Fellowship in Germany

Jamie Bemis Bright Employee, Resiliency

“In a rapidly changing, complex, and interconnected world, it is becoming increasingly important to analyze tomorrow’s challenges today. Through the McCloy Fellowships on Global Trends, the American Council on Germany is tackling overarching issues that affect communities around the world in the areas of urbanization, climate change and sustainability, technological breakthroughs, and demographics and social change.” – American Council on Germany

As a McCloy Fellow, I will be traveling to Germany for three weeks in March to better understand what is being done at the forefront of the efforts to mitigate climate change.  As a former city planner and current manager of efficiency and renewable energy projects for my affordable housing clients in NY, I feel the threat of climate change on the horizon like an oncoming storm. Only five years ago, Superstorm Sandy whipped through the City, claiming lives, leaving millions without power, and wreaking havoc on homes and city infrastructure. It was the first consequence of a warming planet to really hit home, and it shattered the city’s veil of invincibility.

This sentiment is becoming a shared experience across cities worldwide. Communities have recognized their own imminent dangers that will result from a destabilizing climate. For low-income residents in New York City, who are already economically vulnerable, changing weather patterns can result in higher utility bills as residents compensate for hotter summers and unpredictable winters. Worse still, low-income residents often live in areas more vulnerable to storm impacts. In response, many cities have put forth bold plans to tackle the challenges of global warming. And still, there is more progress to be made.

Being A Part of the Solution

With a background in engineering and urban planning, I feel uniquely responsible to help address this issue.  At Bright Power, we contribute to these efforts by partnering with developers to make their affordable housing developments more sustainable and resilient – like at Arverne View, where a renovation was able to reduce onsite energy consumption by almost a third while improving tenant comfort. Bright Power also developed the Resilient Power Hub as a means to provide emergency backup power in the event of a blackout – particularly relevant for affordable and supportive housing communities, which often include elderly residents and residents with medical needs.

Through the McCloy fellowship, I plan to improve our ability to contribute to these cutting-edge projects even further by learning what is being done at the forefront of the efforts to mitigate climate change, so I can advocate for these measures on a local level and contribute to the collective fight. And as a young professional, I know that our very futures depend on it.

Why Germany?

Not many industrialized countries can surpass Germany with regards to the breadth and depth with which the issue of climate change is being addressed. Since 2005, the German government has paid explicit and consistent attention to the issue, documenting the anticipated challenges that result from climate change, as well as strategies for risk mitigation and adaptation. In 2016, Germany released its Climate Action Plan 2050, which outlines the strategies for achieving the nation’s climate goals. That same year, the “Integrated Environmental Programme” report was released, describing past achievements and outlining specific focus areas to aid the nation in reaching the goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an outcome of the Paris Climate Change Conference of 2015. In 2016, Germany was ranked first in the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s international energy efficiency scorecard.

There is much that the United States—and countries around the world—can learn from German initiatives. Over the course of my three-week fellowship in Germany, I will learn about climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts from the front lines of where these efforts are being enacted by asking this question: How is the buildings industry responding to the needs of a changing climate? My research and interviews will focus on innovations in the built environment, including housing-specific initiatives and community-scale strategies, that seek to mitigate the consequences of climate change.

I look forward to sharing best practices, lessons learned, and key strategies that can be implemented here in the United States.  Together we can work towards our collective well-being and a future in which we can all thrive.

25 Jan

New York City Solar Co-op

Darren Johnson solar

A New Way to Capitalize on Solar Benefits for your Co-op or Condo

If you live in a co-op or condo, you may envy your friends who own townhouses or single family homes because they have roofs on which they can install solar panels.  Until recently, most co-op and condo owners had no easy way to directly supply their apartments with solar energy that was generated by solar panels on the roofs of their buildings.  However, recent policy changes in New York State have enabled what we call a Solar Co-op.  In a Solar Co-op, the power that the solar panels produce can be credited directly to a participating resident’s Con Edison bills.  

Why Solar PV?

First of all, we’re talking about solar photovoltaics (PV), which directly convert the sun’s energy into electricity.  The technology has been around since the 1950’s and some installed systems have been producing sustainable electricity for close to 40 years!  There are no moving parts to these systems and the solar panels come with 25-year warranties.  It’s a sound investment with minimal upkeep costs.  The technology is overwhelmingly popular, with nearly an 800% growth in New York over the last 5 years. It also became the fastest-growing new energy source in the world in 2016.

Some of our larger real estate clients have even committed to integrating solar into every project when possible.  A good friend of ours, Aaron Koffman, Principal at Hudson Companies, once noted a change in opinion from “solar being an interesting idea to solar being a no-brainer.”    

Why Now?

Most co-ops and condos have separate electricity meters for common area and in-unit residential accounts.  In the past, co-ops and condos could usually only use the electricity generated from the solar PV system to offset the common area consumption. But recent policy changes have enabled what we call a Solar Co-op.

In a Solar Co-op, the power that the system produces can be credited to both common area and individual residential meters, allowing each participating resident to reap attractive financial benefits directly on their Con Edison bills.

So what exactly is the direct value to you, an owner or shareholder of the building that has solar PV on the roof?  Since residential electricity rates are higher, a Solar Co-op can increase the savings that a system will generate by 30%-40% compared to traditional common area projects.  When combining the right incentives, tax credits, and annual system savings the average payback period for installing a system is 3 – 7 years.

Your Children and Grandchildren Will Thank You

So creating and joining a Solar Co-op is a smart financial investment, but, more importantly, it is a smart investment for the planet.  What better way to demonstrate your values and concern for future generations than with a Solar Co-op?  Oh yeah, and about those friends who moved to the suburbs – many of them probably found out that they had too many trees casting shadows on their roofs for solar panels to make sense, so you can make them a little jealous, too.

Is My Building a Good Fit?

The first question our clients ask us is, “how do I know if my building is a good fit for solar?”  A good starting point is to find out the size of your roof and any surrounding obstructions.  Do you have more than 2,000 square feet of available roof space?  Is your building the same height or taller than adjacent buildings?  Does your roof receive direct sunlight throughout the day?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, solar may be a good fit.

If you have always wondered about solar for your co-op or condo, now is the time to ask questions and learn more. Our experts are leaders in the industry and can help determine if solar is a good fit for your building. Please get in touch!


Financial incentives for installing solar PV: 

Part of what enables an attractive financial return on solar PV systems are the various incentives that are available to support the proliferation of this environmentally-friendly technology.  Bright Power’s team of experts will work through all the complexities with you to make sure that you get the benefits.  We’ve given a brief description of the incentives below, but please note these are periodically reduced in value and then removed from the market.

  • New York State Energy Research Development Authority (NYSERDA) offers a cash incentive for PV installations
  • NY-SUN Program (PON 2112) pays a cash incentive directly to the installer lowering the out-of-pocket amount cost
  • New York State Solar Tax Credit is proportional to the cost of a 50kW project
  • Federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is equal to 30% of the total project costs
  • New York City Solar Panel Property Tax Abatement (PTA) offers tax abatements to the property owners that is applied to the property for a four-year period
  • New York State Historic Property Tax Credit (HPTC) covers up to $50,000/calendar year/shareholder or the cost of the installation after the NYSERDA cash incentive
25 Jan

Shedding Light on Trump’s New 30% Solar Tariff

Jamin Bennett politics, solar

With the recent announcement of the tariff on imported solar cells and modules, solar energy has been in the news a lot lately. But what does it really mean and how will it impact you and your projects?

Thankfully, you will barely notice the impact of this tariff on the kinds of projects we do with you. As incredible forward-thinking clients, you know that solar decreases owner-paid utility costs, increases property value, produces clean greenhouse gas-free energy on site, and can add resiliency to the property when paired with storage.

Here are some specific reasons why we’re not too worried about the tariff:

  • Solar panels are only one component of a solar project.  Even if the full effect of the tariff gets incorporated into our pricing, it would not substantially impact the system’s long-term economic and environmental benefits.  The 30% tariff is only on the solar modules and cells, so it would not increase the total price of a project by anything close to 30%!
  • A number of manufacturers are petitioning for exclusion from the tariff, including our primary panel supplier, SunPower.  Given that SunPower truly does have a unique cell and module design that is higher efficiency than any other (and which already sells at a premium price),  they have a good case for exemption. This article from Greentech Media explains why. 
  • Imported solar panel manufacturers may eat some of the cost of the tariff.  We’ve already spoken to manufacturers who have agreed to do so.

How Will This Tariff Impact You?

If you already have solar panels on your building, this will have no impact.

If we are currently installing panels on your building and the panels have already been ordered, your Bright Power account manager will be reaching out to discuss the specific plan for your project.

If we are under contract to install a solar project for you this year, and we haven’t yet ordered the panels, your Bright Power account manager will reach out to share all your options, including potentially expediting the process.

If we aren’t yet in contract, we will not be able to order the panels before February 7, 2018, the date the tariff goes into effect. We still don’t know the true extent of the impact of this tariff and expect to learn more over the next month.  We do know that the 30% tariff does not mean a 30% higher cost for your project.  At worst, the tariff will end up causing a small price increase that we will do everything we can to minimize.

How We See It

From where we are sitting, this tariff will not aid in the immediate increase in U.S. based manufacturing as it intends. Unfortunately, the media attention is already causing confusion and will slow down the growth of the industry and proliferation of solar. That being said, we fully support the creation of American manufacturing jobs.  Prior to their bankruptcy, we used SolarWorld, one of the petitioners in the original trade case, panels. We look forward to the creation of American-made solar cells and modules and will look for ways to include those products when scoping for projects.

Tony Clifford, chief development officer at Standard Solar, may have said it best“The solar industry is nothing if not resilient, and I’m confident the innovative, tough and resourceful members of the industry will find workarounds to the latest obstacle placed in solar’s path. The Solar Century is here, and not even unfair tariffs will stand in its way.”

24 Jan

Bright Employee: Catharine Brookes

Bright Power Bright Employee, procurement

Catharine BrookesWe’re proud of the intelligent, passionate, and hardworking people that make up the Bright Power team. Each month, you’ll get a chance to meet one of them, understand how they contribute to the organization, and what makes them excited to come to work every day.

Meet Catharine Brookes, Procurement Analyst.

How have you seen your work directly impact clients? 
One of the best benefits of energy procurement is that when we help a building enter a contract our clients can realize savings on their next bill.  Like other energy decisions (think projects), you do not have to calculate your payback period.  There are no upfront costs and you can secure your rates for the future.  In volatile energy markets, this can protect a building’s budget and help owners focus on other areas of their business.


What are some projects and accomplishments you’re most proud of?
This year I assisted a client with a multi-state procurement on a $1.6 million annual spend.  The resulting contracts will equate to an 11% annual savings in the following year. I’m also proud to have worked with affordable and supportive housing groups through our Bulk Energy Procurement Initiative (BEPI), such as Breaking Ground, Community Access, and Jericho Project, as well as some of our other clients like Akelius, CitizenM Hotel, Mercy Housing, Eastchester Heights, Gateway Arms Realty, and the Princeton Club.


What do you like most about working at Bright Power?

At Bright Power, our work has a very direct impact on the places we call our homes.  Whether it be working in new construction or a retrofit, our work will have lasting effects on a tenant’s comfort, safety, and likely their pocketbook, as we strive to make improvements to the buildings’ heating/cooling, lighting, and water use.  Equally, our work supports New York City’s wider sustainability goals of 80 by 50.  Bright Power is proactively thinking about how we can make the biggest impact through participation in studies like the Retrofit Accelerator or assisting lenders to devise green loan programs.  In that way, Bright Power is always striving.  For example, every Thursday, Bright Power brings in inspiring or technical experts in related fields during a company lunch to encourage a dynamic of “continuous improvement” in its employees in the same way that we treat our client’s buildings.

05 Jan

Extreme Cold Sends Natural Gas Markets Scrambling for Direction

Dan Levin Energy Markets, procurement

What does all this frigid cold mean for your energy bills?

Last week, natural gas prices were almost 40 times higher than they have been.  While that high a price won’t persist, it is reasonable to expect that energy prices are going to be higher than they have been for the last few months.

Want a better understanding of the ups and downs of the energy markets before another blast of arctic cold arrives? Here’s a memo from the desk of Dan Levin, VP Energy Markets, explaining how this recent cold front has impacted markets.

We often hear from our clients that controlling their winter utility costs can be one of their biggest challenges. This past week’s weather and its impact on prices is an excellent example of why they may feel that way. Understanding the ups and downs of the energy markets (and prices) is difficult enough, but when it comes to events like bombogenesis or “bomb cyclones,” things can get really crazy.

In fact, last week we saw energy prices both rise and fall at the same time! Now to be honest and fair, we are talking about two separate “markets”: the national NYMEX natural gas futures market that moves with longer-term expectations and a price for natural gas needed specifically on that day in the local NY market.

On January 4th, the spot price (daily cash price) for NY set new records reaching $175/DTH. Most of our clients contract for fixed price natural gas in New York somewhere between $4.50/DTH to $5.75/DTH, and fortunately for them, they will not be impacted by the recent January price volatility.

10 Highest Daily Top of the Range Prices for Transco Zn 6 NY

You may also notice in the above chart, that seven of the ten highest prices fell within the past three years and coincide with the 2014 polar vortex cold period.  All of the peak days in 2014 lead to natural gas utility supply rates of $8 or $9/DTH that winter. That’s what usually happens. Except for last week. The temperature extremes of the past few years coupled with the high demand in the NY market are a recipe for price volatility and the reason all our clients are hedged or have fixed agreements that protect their winter costs and budgets.

At the same time local prices were setting record highs, the futures market dropped. Despite the extreme cold in the near term across the whole US, the natural gas futures contract for February 2018 saw 7.5% price volatility and a daily price drop of 4.7%. While it is unusual to see large market movements like these in opposite directions, it can happen and it did here for good reasons. In short, the prices dropped for February and many of the forward months, because natural gas production has seen large increases over the past few months, changing market expectations. It is also an indication that we may see low prices once the winter has passed and the high natural gas production levels increase natural gas supply.

Natural Gas Futures

With clients across the US, it’s important to talk about region-specific strategies.  We welcome market discussions with our clients as well as discussions on your specific procurement strategies.

Send any questions to procurement@brightpower.com.