Brooklyn Brownstone Solar Installation

Ever since the fire department threw a wrench in the New York solar installation movement this year New York solar panel installers have been scrambling to find alternatives for solar installations on Brooklyn brownstones.

The wrench in this case is a law that requires a SIX foot wide walkway from the front of the roof to the back, they claim for fire fighters to be able to work safely. But SIX feet? What are they doing up there, playing tennis??

For a Brooklyn brownstone a six foot swath of space is a massive chunk of real estate on a roof that already is minuscule in terms of solar panel wattage. It essentially reduces the amount of solar panels we can install to such a negligible amount that there is no way we can approach the eventual goal of running a whole Brooklyn brownstone off solar electricity alone.

So while the lawyers duke it out and try to reduce the walkway width, us solar PV installers are looking for alternatives. And what do New Yorkers do when looking for extra space? They build up of course!

And that is what New York solar installers are doing. Instead of laying the photovoltaic panels flat on the roof we are raising them on platforms above the roof so that six foot wide fire fighters have all the space they need UNDER the solar panels.

This of course raises engineering challenges and DOB hoop jumping. Solar panels are basically sails and if a good wind catches them they are more than happy to go sailing through the sky until gravity pulls them back to earth with a ferocious speed and weight.

So whatever support structure we build needs to be strong. One option is a pergola type structure out of wood or steel. Underneath you can have a deck, a green roof or even a salvaged bath tub for soaking. The solar panels become a nice form of shade.

Or you can get more visually dramatic and create solar arrays jutting out at dramatic angles like the solar tracker below.

solar tracker P.V. installation idea for brooklyn brownstone

Like all New York solar installers we aren’t happy about this new walkway regulation. But Eco Brooklyn if anything is deeply creative and we see this as another opportunity to push our perception of what normal brownstone solar installations should be.

Why shouldn’t all south facing walls of Brooklyn brownstones have building integrated solar panels above each window that create electricity year round as well as shade for the house during the summer? Why doesn’t every roof top have solar panels on platforms above a green roof?

Some New York solar installers derisively call this kind of thinking “Solar Heroics”. It is complicated and doesn’t give the great profits that a mindless flat panel array you install in a weekend can give.

But we love Solar Heroics. Hey, what’s life without playing superhero!

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2 comments on “Brooklyn Brownstone Solar Installation
  1. Gennaro Brooks-Church says:

    Hello Lucy,
    The best you could do is maybe build one line along the side of the roof that is not visible from the street. If that is visible then you could install the panels flat and accept that there would be a reduction in efficiency. In terms of multiple dwelling you could choose to hook up only a couple units. Hooking them all up could get complicated.

  2. Lucy Sikes says:

    I don’t think building up is an option for me. My house is on a block corner in a landmarked area and I can’t build something that would be visible from the street. Do you have any solution for me? The other concern is that my house is a multiple dwelling. I am not sure how to divide the cost among the three apartments in my house.

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