Internet + Solar = The Perfect Match

Crown Heights, New York. Image: Wikimedia Commons

by Ashira Morris, ODP Staff Writer

In the United States, there’s a growing need to scale up high-speed broadband and clean energy infrastructure. A new housing initiative in New York City will take on both with a single project: setting buildings up for solar power, then using the energy cost savings to bring high-speed internet access to residents. The Workforce Housing Group, an affordable housing organization in the city, plans to launch the program in more than 20 buildings. 

 

Why This Matters: Both clean energy and reliable high-speed internet access shouldn’t be luxuries, rather standard services offered to all Americans. They’re both infrastructure projects that the Biden administration has identified in its policy goals, and this project exemplifies what some of these projects could look like on a community level. Affordable and lower-income housing tends to be built in areas that have high environmental burdens, including air pollution and urban heat island impacts. Programs like this one can improve both climate and health outcomes, with the added benefit of expanding access to affordable internet. 

Go Deeper: Why is high-speed internet inaccessible for so many Americans?

Coming to a Neighborhood Near You? The project was funded by New York’s Green Bank and the state Housing Finance Agency. An upfront loan will take care of installation costs, and they expect loan payments will be offset by savings on utility bills. 

We expect this innovative structure to serve as a model for further partnerships with housing finance agencies and affordable housing developers as we continue advancing New York State’s equitable energy transition,” said Andrew Kessler, acting president of the NY Green Bank, in a statement. 

While the program is pioneering in pairing solar with internet access, other organizations have been working to bring solar energy to New York City’s affordable housing complexes for years. In 2016, the Solar Uptown Now group was formed by WE ACT for Environmental Justice to help affordable housing co-ops in the city secure solar energy, and by 2019, 13 buildings were participating.

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