Reynoso Pushes More Solar Energy In Low-Income Households


City Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Williamsburg, Bushwick, Greenpoint) joined members of the Million Solar Strong Campaign yesterday at Dunn Development Corp’s most recent project, The Meekerman apartment complex in Williamsburg to call on the state and Governor Andrew Cuomo to support more solar power for low-income households.

City Councilman Antonio Reynoso

The Million Solar Strong Campaign, which launched earlier this month, is made up of several industry, environmental, clean energy, and community organizations. Its goal is for one million households, including 100,000 low-income households, in New York State to be on solar power by 2023, according to Renee Vogelsang, an organizer with the campaign.

“Solar should be accessible to all people,” Vogelsang said. “Often times low-income communities are the ones who are most adversely affected by pollution, by industry, by coal and other fossil fuel facilities – so we need to be putting solar in those communities.”

The campaign released two “policy roadmaps” at The Meekerman outlining measures the state and governor can implement to achieve its goal. Some of the recommendations include expanding state financing programs for solar power, simplifying the state’s solar tax credit system, and providing job training and work opportunities for disadvantage workers and businesses.

“Generally speaking, New York State has actually been pretty progressive when it comes to solar policy, but lately things have seemed to kind of stall, so we want to reinvigorate things,” said Melanie Santiago-Mosier, Program Director for Low-Income Solar Access at Vote Solar, a non-profit that is part of the campaign.

Santiago-Mosier said that one of the main barriers to increased solar power usage is the state’s complicated solar tax-credit system.

“When these solar panels generate energy, the customer who gets that energy gets a credit for it. The value of that credit is something that is very, very confusing,” she said. “It’s caused a great deal of uncertainty among customers and among solar installers, and so that’s slowing things down.”

Reynoso expressed his support for the campaign at the event Thursday. Standing next to solar panels on the rooftop of The Meekerman, an affordable housing development that utilizes solar power, Reynoso said, “Every single building that is affordable should have solar energy in it, or should have some type of alternative energy – every single one if we’re serious about the long-term affordability of this city.”

The council member was confident that the campaign would find support among his colleagues. “I think this is a low-hanging fruit – one of the easy ones. It would be hard for me to find a council member that doesn’t believe alternative energy sources, as opposed to just basic electricity is not a good idea,” Reynoso said.

The campaign plans to meet with legislators and hold more events around New York throughout the remainder of the summer, culminating in a rally in Albany on the ‘Million Dollar Staircase’ in the state’s capital building.

“We’re going to be collecting stories from everyday people who either have gone solar or want to go solar and can’t go solar, so we’re building a broad-tent campaign – building a movement essentially,” Vogelsang said.