A $3.4 million project involving the installation of 7,602 solar panels across 10 acres of rooftop space has made Diamond Properties the leader in adopting solar energy in Westchester County.
Mount Kisco Mayor J. Michael Cindrich has been involved with the project at 333 N. Bedford Road, the site of the former Grand Union warehouse, from the inception. A recent ribbon-cutting marked the installation as the largest in the county.
“As far as solar energy, it’s really more than just environmental,” Cindrich said. “You have to have a vision for the future because the initial investment doesn’t pay off quick, but what Diamond Properties is doing is investing in the future.”
The solar panel installation is expected to produce an annual utility savings of $275,000 and pay for itself in eight years.
“The decision to focus on sustainability has been driven by both environmental and financial considerations,” said Jim Diamond, managing member of Diamond Properties, in a statement. “As a company we’ve been focused for a long time on sustainability. Not all of our initiatives have a financial return on investment. Often, we spend more to make smart, environmentally sensitive land use decisions that have no ROI. But it is particularly rewarding when some initiatives, like our extensive solar program, do offer a compelling business case in addition to being what I’d characterize as the ‘right’ thing to do.”
At 1.9 megawatts, the project stands as the largest commercial rooftop solar system in Westchester County, according to Safari Energy LLC, the Manhattan-based solar provider responsible for Diamond’s new installation.
The panels power more than 70 percent of the property’s six tenants’ electricity needs and are part of a larger “aggressive” effort by Diamond Properties to lower costs utilizing green energy solutions while reducing its carbon footprint.
“This is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Nat Mundy, vice president and co-founder of Grand Prix New York, one of Diamond’s tenants at 333 N. Bedford Road. “We’re obviously happy to cut down our electricity costs, but this is also about being good corporate citizens. If more businesses looked at solar power, it would help reduce pollution and decrease dependence on oil.”
Ninety percent of Grand Prix’s power is provided through the new solar system, and fellow tenant Saw Mill Club East receives 85 percent of its power through solar.
Carlos Floresguerra, vice president of project development for Safari Energy, said Diamond Properties is among the early adopters of many cost-saving energy efficiency and renewable technology programs.
“Anywhere solar makes sense he is looking at it,” Floresguerra said of Diamond. “These initiatives not only benefit the company’s tenants and local community, but make a powerful statement in support of sustainability and help propel New York upwards in the national solar rankings.”
In 2014, New York was ranked seventh in the nation for most installed solar capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
Diamond Properties owns more than 3.7 million square feet of property including office, warehouse, retail, residential and land in five states.
The Mount Kisco property is the fourth solar installation the company has completed with Safari, with other projects in Elmsford, White Plains and Hawthorne.
Three more Diamond solar installations are under construction in West Nyack, Watertown and Danbury, Conn.
Including completed and in-progress projects, the total output of Diamond’s solar panels in New York and Connecticut is 7 megawatts — enough to power more than 1,050 homes in New York, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
“It used to be ‘Why should we do solar?’” Floresguerra said. “Now the question is ‘Why aren’t we doing solar?”
While more businesses are starting to look to their unused roof space as untapped savings, there is still great potential for solar across the county, where energy pricing is particularly steep, Floresguerra said.
The Diamond solar project was originally estimated at $5 million, but after rebates from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, the cost dropped to approximately $3.4 million, Diamond said.
The solar installation was also made possible through additional tax benefits, including a 30 percent federal tax credit, Diamond said.
The growth of the solar energy is due in part to incentive programs such as the NYSERDA-administered NY-Sun program, a $1 billion initiative by Gov. Andrew Cuomo to move the state closer to having a sustainable, self-sufficient solar industry.
“Through the NY-Sun program, we have seen tremendous growth in solar power in New York,” said John B. Rhodes, president and CEO of NYSERDA.
Since the program’s launch in 2012, a total of 316 megawatts of solar electric was installed or is under contract, more than what was installed in the entire prior decade. Approximately 116,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions will be avoided with the installation of the NY-Sun projects, which is the equivalent of removing 23,000 cars from the road, according to the program’s website.
The expansion of the NY-Sun program in 2014 is expected to result in 3 gigawatts, or 3,000 megawatts, of installed capacity by 2023. This scale-up is projected to make the solar industry self-sufficient in New York state, no longer requiring government subsidies as the cost of solar becomes comparable to the cost of electricity from the grid, according to NY-Sun.
This article has been updated to reflect that Diamond Properties has in-progress or completed solar projects at seven of its properties in New York and Connecticut. An earlier version incorrectly stated the number of properties.