Western Queens is the home of the Ravenswood Generating Station, the country’s 23rd largest power plant. Its gas-powered turbines consume millions of cubic feet of natural gas creating steam and steam-powered electricity. As a peaker plant, it is only supposed to come online a few times a year when electricity demand exceeds the capacity of normal plants, but with the increase in the numbers of visitors and residents to NYC in recent years, they have been needed more and more, especially in the evening hours when so many computers, televisions and other electronic devices are being used. And it is now known that the pollution they cause can create severe adverse health effects for the people who live in close proximity to them.
The impact of peaker plants on air quality, and contributing to respiratory illness, has left residents of the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn living in the vicinity of these plants more susceptible to COVID-19, which has disproportionately impacted people of color in low-income areas. Living with long-term air pollution is deemed “a threat multiplier,” drastically impacting health outcomes, which also point to the disproportionately higher rates of COVID-19. Residents of the South Bronx, Western Queens, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn in particular have suffered the most from the siting of the city’s peaker plants.
And now solar power is being proposed as a way to mitigate the costs, both financial and human, of peaker plants.
In Sunset Park, Solar One’s Here Comes Solar team is providing technical training for community members as a partner to UPROSE, who are leading the construction of Sunset Park Solar, one of the nation’s first — and New York’s first — cooperatively-owned community solar project, on top of the Brooklyn Army Terminal.
Community member subscribers to Sunset Park Solar will also be members of the New York City Community Energy Cooperative, and engage in decision-making meetings where they can vote and have a say in the future of the project.
Community organizations across the city are looking at Sunset Park Solar as a potential model for how community solar programs can work with city agencies and multiple types of partners.