Mayor Bloomberg, Parks Commissioner Veronica M. White, Sanitation Commissioner John Doherty and Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability Sergej Mahnovski today announced the largest solar energy installation in New York City will be installed at Freshkills Parks on Staten Island. Approximately 47 acres of land will be leased to SunEdison, which was selected through a public bidding process to design, construct, install and operate a solar power facility with the potential to generate up to 10 megawatts of power – five times more than any solar energy system in the city and enough to power approximately 2,000 homes.
The solar power system will be an integral part of the Freshkills Park, and will increase the City’s current renewable energy capacity by 50 percent. Fostering the market for renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions are two key initiatives of PlaNYC, the City’s long-term sustainability blueprint. This announcement is the latest in a series of solar initiatives the city has launched in recent years including significantly scaling up use of solar energy at City-owned sites and developing the NYC Solar Map, a web-based tool that estimates the feasibility of installing solar panels on any of the 1 million New York City buildings. The Administration is moving forward with steps to officially map an additional 1,500 acres of Freshkills into parkland, officially bringing the total for Freshkills Park to 2,200 acres and bringing total parkland in New York City to more than 30,000 acres for the first time in history. The Mayor made the announcement at Freshkills Park where he was joined by Borough President James Molinaro, Assembly Member Michael Cusik, Assembly Member Matthew Titone and Atilla Toth, General Manager for SunEdison, for the announcement.
“Freshkills was once the site of the largest landfill in the world. Soon it will be one of the City’s largest parks, and the site of the largest solar power installation ever developed within the five boroughs,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “Over the last twelve years we’ve restored wetlands and vegetation and opened new parks and soccer fields at the edges of the site. Thanks to the agreement today we will increase the amount of solar energy produced in New York City by 50 percent and it is only fitting that Freshkills, once a daily dumping ground, will become a showcase urban renewal and sustainability.”
“Developing solar energy on Freshkills Park shows that large-scale renewable energy projects are possible in New York City, but this is only a first step,” said Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway. “If we are serious about meeting New York City’s tremendous energy needs from renewable sources we need the State and federal governments, as well as our utility partners and others in the private sector, to work with us to make solar and other renewable energies easier to develop, install, and access the energy grid.”
A rendering of the 47-acre solar installation at Freshkills Park on Staten Island.
The Department of Parks and Recreation intends to file next month the application to the Department of City Planning to formally map an additional 1,500 acres of the Freshkills site as parkland. Currently mapped for a variety of uses and under different jurisdictions, this application will include a provision for specific sites at Freshkills to develop renewable energy. The move will expedite and streamline the administrative process to build the Freshkills solar facility as a model of this Administration's commitment to long-range sustainability practices. This application represents hard work years in the making, highlighting the City's commitment to parks and sustainability, alongside the elected officials and local leadership here in Staten Island.
In addition, once the application process is complete and with the area designated as parkland, the added land at Freshkills will put the City at over 30,000 acres of parkland - a size greater than the entire city of San Francisco. Specific to the ‘Borough of Parks,’ the mapping would give Staten Island the highest parkland acreage of the five boroughs, at 8,822 acres, representing 28 percent of the City’s parkland. In all, the City has added 871 acres of parkland since 2001.
“Freshkills Park is transforming into one of New York City’s most significant regional parks of the 21st century and, thanks to Mayor Bloomberg's vision, we are putting it on the map as a model for clean and renewable energy,” said Parks and Recreation Commissioner Veronica White. “When you visit Freshkills Park today, it’s hard to imagine it was ever a landfill. Thanks to the leadership of former Borough President Guy Molinari, Borough President James Molinaro, a joint effort by Staten Island's elected officials, and brilliant engineering by the Sanitation Department, it is one of the best examples of land reclamation in the world. This Administration’s dedication to parks can be summed up no better than with this effort that aims to give New York City, for the first time in its history, over 30,000 acres of parkland.”
“The goal of having a cleaner energy supply in New York City has always required projects as bold as the vision itself. This unprecedented solar project will be the largest in New York City and will help us understand how renewables can integrate into our energy networks at a much greater scale, and sends a signal to the market place that renewable energy is both achievable within the city, and that it will continue to grow and become a major component of New York City’s energy supply,” said Sergej Mahnovski, Director of the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability. “This project will also push existing regulations to their boundaries. Interconnection with the utility system will have to be clarified, State programs aimed at increasing renewable energy will have to be expanded, and landfill post-closure care will have to be rewritten; and these are only a few of the challenges ahead. But this is a necessary undertaking in order to shift our power sector to a cleaner, more reliable energy future.”
“I am pleased to announce that the City has entered into an exclusive negotiation agreement with SunEdison,” said DSNY Commissioner Doherty. “SunEdison has done many comparable installations at other closed landfills in the northeast. This will be the first of its kind in NYC. The designs will take into account that during the installation and operation of the solar panels, the city (DSNY) will continue its post-closure monitoring and maintenance obligations, which are mandated by a Consent Order with the state. In addition, the East Site, where we are standing now, will about the future Freshkills Park.”
"Promoting solar energy is a critical component of our goal to make New York City more sustainable and resilient over the long term,” said New York City Economic Development Corporation President Kyle Kimball. “With today’s announcement, this Administration is, once again, reactivating underutilized land in an innovative way that will help the City thrive for years to come.”
“SunEdison applauds New York City’s innovative approach to environmental sustainability,” said Attila Toth, SunEdison’s General Manager. “The solar systems we intend to build at Freshkills Park will be tangible proof of the Mayor’s commitment to renewable energy, and will serve as a model of public private partnerships by providing economic benefit to both the city and businesses located within the five boroughs.”
Today’s announcement builds on the work the City has already done to cultivate more renewable energy. In April, the City entered into an innovative third-party ownership agreement to install almost 2 megawatts of solar energy on four City-owned buildings including the Port Richmond Waste Water Treatment Plant, two Bronx High Schools, and the Staten Island Ferry Maintenance Building. Almost 700 kilowatts already exist on City-owned buildings such as police precincts, park buildings and firehouses.
In addition to bringing renewable electricity to New York City, solar power will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and local pollutants. During the hottest summer days, demand for electricity forces the activation of inefficient in-city “peaker” plants, some of which burn heavy fuel oil. The solar and wind facilities at Freshkills will reduce the need for peak electricity generation at these facilities, and help to meet the PlaNYC goal of a 30-percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030.
“I am pleased to see one of the objectives I proposed at the beginning of my administration finally come to fruition. The development of environmentally-friendly green energy sources at Freshkills promises a future in stark contrast from the days when Freshkills was an environmental nightmare,” Borough President James P. Molinaro said. “I commend Mayor Bloomberg and Deputy Mayor Cas Holloway for their perseverance and commitment to this project.”
"I am thrilled that this idea we had, to turn the environmental nightmare of Fresh Kills Landfill into an environmental dream that will be Fresh Kills Park and Renewable Energy Fields, has finally become a reality,” staid State Senator Diane Savino. “I thank Mayor Bloomberg for taking this concept and having his team at Parks run with it."
“This announcement signifies a turn for Freshkills Park as a site that represents clean and renewable energy,” said Assembly Member Michael Cusik. “This is the perfect symbol of Freshkills moving from the designation of an environmental nightmare when it was a landfill to a site responsible for renewable energy. I applaud the Mayor and the PlaNYC initiatives for including the Freshkills Park site as a location for a solar power facility.”
“I applaud the multi-use purpose of Freshkills Park where we not only return it to nature but incorporate public use, education, and a commitment to clean, renewable energy,” said Assembly Member Matthew Titone. “We need electricity, we need open space, and we need clean air, and we can have all three.”
“Con Edison has been working with many of its customers who choose to install solar systems for their homes and businesses,” said Con Edison President Craig Ivey. “We commend Mayor Bloomberg for his leadership on the Fresh Kills project, which will increase the amount of solar generation in New York, promoting cleaner air and a more reliable electrical grid.”
“Not long ago, few could have imagined that Freshkills would be transformed into a park, let alone into a clean-energy facility,” said Marcia Bystryn, President of the New York League of Conservation Voters. “This is one of the most exciting clean-energy projects in development in the entire city, and it will serve as a powerful symbol of the environmental renaissance now underway on Staten Island. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg for this important accomplishment, and for making environmental sustainability one of the hallmarks of his administration.”
"At Fresh Kills, a mountain of trash is becoming an oasis of green, with room for parks, wildlife and renewable energy," said Andy Darrell, Regional Director and Chief of Strategy for Energy at the Environmental Defense Fund. "The price of solar panels is at historic lows, and it's innovation like this that can help make the benefits of solar power available to more New Yorkers."
Freshkills spans 2,200 acres on the western shore of Staten Island and served as the City’s principal solid waste landfill until 2001. In 2006, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation began working to develop Freshkills Park, which will incorporate the solar and wind power installations. The use of capped municipal landfills to develop renewable energy facilities was outlined in PlaNYC, Mayor Bloomberg’s unprecedented program to prepare the City for more residents, strengthen the economy, combat climate change, and enhance the quality of life for all New Yorkers.