Solar power at the coop


Would anyone be interested in seeing a small trial of solar power in the coop?


Absolutely! It would be poineering for a coop of this size to use solar and/or renewable energy.

How can we work on this? Count me in.


I think that a small test project would be best. There is one solar company recommended by the United Federation of Teachers for their members. We need more cooperators to agree that it is worth the experiment. If management has time to take this on it could happen. It may come with some headaches, and bugs as anything new would. Do we as a coop have the staff to oversee this? I don’t know.

Do you have any ideas for a small test project for the Penn South?


Walter Mankoff can speak to this better than I but I will give it a try. Apparently our electricity cogeneration is so efficient, any solar water heater or solar cells would not payback their purchase price in cost savings. We heat our water for free from the heat given off by our electricity generators. Solar cells for electricity would involve costly equipment to integrate into our existing electrical system.

There are buildings in New York City that have solar panels but they don’t use cogeneration.


What would the difference in cost be? Also are we buying gas that is hydrofracked?


So Brian, Are you are saying that it is much cheaper to keep polluting than to use clean energy?


So, right now there is no way to cheaply use solar energy? Would solar energy double or triple our power bill right now? Would our electric bills be two or three times as expensive if we went to solar energy?

How could we find out how much more it would cost for solar? Also the solar technology keeps changing. When was the last time this information was updated?


How does Penn South currently generate its electricity?


Natural gas or oil fires boilers which create steam which turns turbines which turn generators.


Now is a great time to think about solar power again, and I want to make sure you get the opportunity to see how much you can save with solar.

Solar power makes good economic sense. The average size system provides electricity savings of at least $1500 per year for 25 years. American Solar Partners offers you the opportunity to own - not lease - your system, which raises the value of your home.

We were recently featured in the New York Times for the work that we have done in New York City to help people switch to solar power.

American Solar Partners offers attractive financing options and with federal and state incentives available we can help get you started with no money out of pocket. Just send me a copy of your electric bill and I’ll show you how much you could save each month with a solar power system.

If you have any questions please call me at 914-699-3366. I’ll be glad to answer any questions you have about solar power.


Ed Murray
Project Manager
Call us at 914-699-3366.

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Hmmm, I don’t see my electric bills as so low that nothing new should be introduced on a trial basis. I see my maintenance as going up way beyond increases in my social security and pension. While we are a bargain, remember, we are supposed to be a middle income oasis.




If something will save us money then it should be considered. Joan, it looks like you know some nice children whose future we need to consider also.


According to analysis performed by our Board of Directors solar power won’t save us any money. We already bill cooperators at the Con Ed Wholesale rate, which is substantially below the Retail rate charged to almost every other apartment dweller in New York City. Since Management’s cost to provide that power is substantially below even the wholesale rate we charge, hundreds of thousands of dollars comes back to the coop to keep your carrying charges lower than they would be otherwise.

Other buildings can save money with solar power because they don’t have our existing cogeneration infrastructure. They simply slap some photovoltaics or solar water heating chambers on their roof to reduce the amount of power they buy from Con-Ed or the amount of fuel they buy to fire their water boilers for hot water. We already heat our water from the heat given off by the dynamos turned by steam driven turbines. We’ve already amortized a substantial power plant investment that lets us generate electricity from cheap natural gas. Building a solar voltaic infrastructure and the associated switching and transformer network to integrate it into our existing grid would create an expense whose amortization would raise our costs significantly over maintaining our very efficient existing fossil fuel infrastructure.

Regarding pollution from our power plant, we currently adhere to all appropriate regulations from city, state, and federal governments.

Joan, we’ve needed to raise carrying charges to cover capital expenditures that naturally occur in 50 year old buildings built to the frugal spec of Penn South in 1962. A more appropriate comparison would be to compare the carrying charges for Penn South with rental costs for any similar apartments anywhere else. You can’t compare us to carrying charges or maintenance for market rate coops because their owners generally pay much higher assessments for maintenance that we do. They don’t care so much about, say, a $50,000 assessment if they paid $1,000,000 for the apartment. They also pay annual real estate taxes that in our case are either waived or bundled into our monthly charges. I don’t think you will find a similarly sized apartment in any building anywhere in this country with lower monthly total charges, including taxes, heat, hot water, and electricity.


Thank you Brian. It’s great that you are so communicative. Thanks!


Yes, Brian, you are very right. I do understand, but I also think that many seniors on fixed income are understandably concerned about tomorrow. At one time, sizing down to a smaller apartment could decrease carrying costs. However, that, I believe, was taken off the table this year. Plus sharing an apartment is not permitted, even if a roommate is put on the income affidavit and any additional surcharge is applied. With some board members millionaires, it is difficult for them to understand the anxiety of people who are being squeezed. City assistance for the elderly requires a very tiny income. Perhaps, we are losing our soul a little bit to the reality of circumstances. There is no easy answer.


Love children, Steph! I want to see children have a wonderful life here in Penn South. And I love pets. I would love to see a small dog event in one of the rec rooms once a month, with dog owners paying for the room and clean up. Dogs under 20 lbs, non aggressive. But I don’t think that will happen! A dog run is probably more attainable.


Brian, the people who live in the building attached to the plant are complaining about vibrations and interrupted sleep. I don’t live in tat building, so I don’t really know.


Joan, downsizing of apartments for seniors is very much ON the Boardroom table. We have had discussions about ways we could make it even more attractive for cooperators to downsize as recently as the last Operations meeting. We always need more two and especially three bedroom apartments for our growing families.

There are many sources of assistance for fixed income seniors from the government, private sources, and the coop through apartment downsizing. If you know of anyone who is struggling, they should contact the Management office for an appointment.

Regarding the financial status of Board members, most working people today do not have a defined benefit pension as does my retired schoolteacher mother. Working people today must fund their retirement entirely through their own savings and Social Security. If you consider a middle aged or retired person with over a million dollars in IRA and/or 401k savings a millionaire, then yes we have a few of those I suspect on the Board. But I would still consider such a person most definitely middle income. I assure you everyone on the Board watches our pennies very carefully.


Joan, the idea of a monthly indoor dog event is highly intriguing. I will mention it to our Board president. A dog run at Penn South is must less likely. As you may remember, I campaigned on the possibility of a dog run in the City-owned playground next to the power house. Here is what I found out:

The Parks Department forbids any dog run within a certain distance of any residence. Not only does that rule out the location I had envisioned, but also many if not ever other possible location at Penn South. If if we found a location that met Parks’ requirements, the maintenance costs would likely be prohibitive. Some cooperators may like the idea of a dog run, but how much extra per month would they pay for one? $100/month? $200/month? Parks depends on private organizations to maintain dog runs. The Union Square run is maintained by its Business Improvement District funded by well-heeled businesses and high end residences. The Hudson River run is funded by the private Hudson River Park Trust. Either our dog owners would have to fork over big bucks or all of our carrying charges would have to rise. But I think this is a moot point as I don’t see any location on our property that meets Parks requirements and which would not adversely affect the perceived quality of life of non-dog-owning cooperators in the vicinity.