This is part 2 of my recap of Green Brooklyn 2008 (scroll down for part 1). I attended part of two different panel discussions, one on green investing and the other on solar panel installation.
The Real Greenbacks: Investing to Make a Difference
I have to admit, my eyes glaze over when a prospectus is put in front of me. Financial talk goes in one ear and out the other. Which is why I had to attend this discussion. I’ve been thinking a lot about where our investments are going — to major polluters and irresponsible corporations (oil companies, big agrobiz, tobacco, &c.). I’d love to invest responsibly, with my conscience, I just need some education.
Sustainable investing goes beyond socially responsible investing (SRI), which traditionally excludes the worst public offenders from the equation. Sustainable investing rewards those public companies with sustainable practices and principles. SRI, according to Lily Scott from Veris Wealth Partners, also apparently rewards investors with a greater return on investment than the S&P 500 (11.67% vs 10.2%). It makes sense if you think about it — sustainable company = sustainable growth = sustainable return (it’s not math, but it makes sense to me!).
Solar Your Building
I don’t own a house, so I can’t do my own solar installation. But our building has a nice big sunny roof — an ideal place for solar panels. I’m not sure if the initial investment would be worth it for a large residential co-op building; the space available for panels and the building’s usage may not justify the cost of the panels. I’d like to see our building at least pursue it, the problem is the bump in maintenance costs wouldn’t be seen as favorable since most tenants, while they’re owners, are probably not in it for the long-haul — depending on how many panels there are, it could take up to 20 years to make up for the initial costs. There are goverment incentives available now, but many are reaching the end of their term.
While there are many factors to consider when pursuing solar photovoltaics (direct sunlight, a sturdy roof, slanted platforms for a flat roof), at least for Ken Schles, the Brooklyn Homeowner, it seems worth it. He’s had some struggles, specifically with Con Edison (they don’t know what they’re doing when it comes to the whole solar thing, according to him), but overall, he seems to be enjoying the benefits of solar — a reduced carbon footprint, net energy gains, and a new perspective on energy consumption.
If solar photovoltaics aren’t appropriate (usually due to shade), then solar thermal might be a good option for off-setting fossil fuel use. Solar thermal provides the heat for your hot water heater (a big consumer: 14%–25% of the energy consumed in your home). It collects energy both directly and passively, through sunlight and ambient heat — especially effective in warmer climates and in the summer.