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Park Spring Flower

Solar One in the Time of Coronavirus

December 15, 2020

Dear friends,

On behalf of the staff and Board of Solar One, I sincerely hope this email finds you and your families well and safe. It has now been nine months since the patterns of what we used to consider normal life were altered by Covid-19. Now that 2020 is drawing to a close, and the first vaccines have been delivered to frontline health care workers, the light at the end of the tunnel is becoming visible…but with numbers of new cases and deaths spiking around the country, the situation may well get worse before it gets better. And things will never likely be exactly the same as they were before, in terms of the way we work, socialize and relax.

Most of the Solar One staff is still working from home, having regular team and staff meetings via teleconferencing, and are continuing to serve the communities that depend on us while keeping our staff, our students and trainees, and our partners from falling ill. The notable exception is the Park staff, who have been working onsite since June, and some of the Workforce instructors who have been conducting in-person hands-on training on a limited and necessary basis. I am very pleased to report that no one in our community has become sick with Covid. Everything we have been doing to keep ourselves, our volunteers and our trainees safe appears to be working.

Like virtually every nonprofit in NYC and around the country, many of our programs have been cancelled because they require in-person delivery.  While this has had an effect on our budget, we have adapted and transformed many of our programs to meet the new reality of remote delivery.  This is particularly true of our Workforce Training and Green Design Lab programs, both of which serve populations (public school students and workforce trainees) who often bear a disproportionate brunt of hardship in a severe financial downturn.  To continue providing high-quality, practically useful information, education and training despite inhospitable conditions is a central part of Solar One’s mission.

Here are some of the ways we’ve been continuing our programs during this time of social distancing:

Our Green Design Lab team has been able to provide online environmental STEM curriculum and resources for NYC teachers and students that explore energy efficiency, climate change, and solar. Our Educators have organized and delivered webinars on topics like carbon neutrality, civic engagement and water education. The GDL team has also been delivering online professional development training through the NYC Solar Schools program, and developed a whole slate of online resources for environmental learning at the beginning of the Fall semester.

green goatsStuyvesant Cove Park was the site of some hands-on workforce training this Fall, with small groups working on their carpentry skills on the Solar 1 stage. The Park and its visitors got to enjoy our first experiment in goatscaping, with twenty furry weed-eaters who did a fabulous job of cleaning up the out-of-control overgrowth in our Teaching Garden. Now that the East Side Coastal Resiliency Project is moving forward in earnest, big changes are coming to the Solar One blacktop and the Park. We’ll keep you updated on what those changes mean for our stewardship of the Park.

It may come as a surprise, but Covid has barely slowed our Workforce Training program down at all- people need job training now more than ever.  We have continued delivering the online curriculum for one of our NYSERDA projects and have transitioned other courses like OSHA (occupational safety) and NABCEP (certifications for renewable energy practitioners) to be taken online. We also devised methods to offer hands-on training safely to smaller cohorts so we could continue helping people develop necessary job skills that can’t be taught entirely via remote learning.

As in the Spring, our CECP (NYSERDA Clean Energy Communities) program is continuing its emission reduction work with the NYC Mayor’s Office and Division of Energy Management remotely, helping with policy proposals and consulting with building owners and operators to get their buildings into compliance. We expect this program to continue unimpeded through the Winter and into next year.

Here Comes Solar is continuing to deliver solar technical assistance services for high-impact solar projects in NYC, as they have done throughout the Spring, Summer and Fall. Our team continues to offer clients remote solar consultations, and has held multiple community solar outreach webinars to minimize face-to-face interactions and replace our usual outreach strategy. These have included informational webinars for every type of New Yorker, from low-income NYCHA residents to middle-income HDFC co-op owners to renters and owners of all income levels and backgrounds. To join a community solar initiative, please fill out the form at herecomessolar.nyc and someone from our team will follow up in 1-2 business days.

As with all of you, we still do not entirely know when the ground will settle or when we will be able to resume full in-person delivery of our programs.  We have adapted well, as you can see, and will continue to keep up our communications with you through our weekly eNewsletter.  But we’re having no trouble keeping busy, and will continue to do updates as we develop new plans and gather more information about what we might be able to expect in the coming months.

Stay safe and healthy,

Chris Collins
Executive Director