A New Yorker’s Guide to Using Solar In Your Business

The energy source no longer is the wave of the future — it’s good for commerce today.

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

With a constant increase in demand for electric power and surging oil prices, it surprises me that more business owners aren’t excited about solar energy.

Solar power offers reduced operating costs and a higher return on investment than many other energy sources. Plus, it’s largely maintenance-free, super-reliable and good for the environment. What’s not to love? If you’re planning to integrate solar energy in your business this year, make sure you’re prepared to make the switch.

Financing options.

Putting up a solar project is a long-term investment — a truth I learned during my Atelier experience. I also honestly can say it’s been 100 percent worth it. The initial expense can be relatively high, which is why leasing would have been more favorable in the past. Setup costs have gone down significantly in the past few years, however, making solar far more affordable to the average homeowner or small-business owner.

Single-family homes account for most of New York City’s solar projects. It costs $20,000 to $50,000 to install a residential system, but a combination of city and state public programs can pick up as much as half the bill. Then there’s this: Solar-powered homes reportedly have cut monthly bills by up to 85 percent, compared to previous monthly bills. If that’s not reason enough to front the startup costs, estimates reveal solar energy’s ROI beats the stock market in more 25 states, including New York.

Installation timeline.

Ideally, the entire process shouldn’t take more than eight weeks from start to finish. However, many factors at play could delay the timeline.

A few years ago, the permit-approval process alone could take up to two years. Today, there’s better coordination among government, installers, owners and utilities. New York City’s Department of Buildings now can issue permits in a matter of a few days. It’s a welcome change from the weeks (at best) that earlier applicants waited for a decision.

Signing the paperwork officially gives your installation team the go-ahead. It’s an easy step that should take 24 hours at most — if you have the capital in hand. If you need to secure an improvement loan from a bank or other lender, you’ll wait longer.

Next, your team’s engineers gather site-specific data and create a design for your system upgrade. By now, you’re firmly into week three. Simple designs might take just a week, but owners would be wise to budget roughly three weeks for complex or large solar arrays.

Once you approve the design, you’ll need to submit a permit and wait for the Department of Buildings to greenlight your application. Things move quickly after you get the thumbs-up: You’re now clear to schedule the installation and then await inspection from the utilities department — typically a week or two after installation. The utility company changes the meter, and you’re good to go.

NYC’s permitting process.

Before you install solar panels, you’ll have to go through the City of New York’s permitting process, which begins when you file a permit. You can file this request under a New Building or Alteration permit. You also have the option to file separately as an Alteration Type-2 at borough offices or The HUB itself. The Department of Buildings will inspect the premises and use that information to help make a determination about your application’s future.

Local and state incentives.

Through NY-Sun, the State of New York offers a range of incentives to build a more affordable and sustainable solar industry in New York City. The program offers loan financing for residential, small-commercial and commercial projects. The terms vary depending on the type of borrower. Residential and small-commercial customers can finance up to $25,000 with a repayment period as long as 15 years. Commercial borrowers may finance up to 100 percent of any-sized solar projects and secure an interest rate in the range of 4 percent to 6.5 percent. As an added motivation to participate, NY-Sun also extends reduced installation costs to borrowers across all three categories.

Net-energy metering.

Net energy is the difference between the energy produced and the energy consumed. Many households use less than solar panels produce. Excess energy is pushed back into the grid. The net-metering structure credits the owner for this power returned to the overall system. As an owner, you can use the offset to cover future bills, though you’ll still need to pay the monthly connection charge for the service of using the utility’s grid.

There’s no denying the decision to switch to a solar system can be tough. Even with government support, the one-time setup fee might be too steep for some. But solar undoubtedly is taking over. New York City experienced a surge in installations during 2016. That’s on top of the substantial increase over the preceding years, when residential and commercial installationsdoubled between 2014 and 2016.

The earlier you get on board with solar, the greater benefits you’ll enjoy over the long term.

 

This One Habit Makes You a Most Productive Entrepreneur

This post was originally featured on Entrepreneur.com

What I love about the real estate business is that each new property presents unique challenges to learn and grow. This is especially true in New York, where every building has its own way to inspire.

Sometimes it’s just marveling at a beautiful piece of architecture. Other times, it’s digging up the history and understanding how the builders overcame the special challenges within the building. Often it’s pragmatic — figuring out how to creatively modernize a new condominium. No matter what the situation, there’s always an opportunity to learn.

Self-education is the one habit you need to cultivate, because it drives your productivity, pushes you to new heights and lights a fire underneath your feet as you carve your own path. That commitment to continuous learning leads you to everything else.

Here are five tangible ways self-education gives you the golden ticket to success as an entrepreneur:

1. It saves you time and money.

Twenty-four hours is never enough for an entrepreneur. A commitment to self-education could potentially save you weeks of time — and your bank account.

Case in point: Alibaba founder Jack Ma rode his bike 45 minutes everyday to an American hotel just to improve his fluency in English by talking to English-speaking foreigners. Ma did this for nine years starting at the ripe old age of 12. He ended up speaking English so well, he became an English teacher at his local school in China. His eagerness for self-education is no doubt the reason Ma is now worth approximately $35.7 billion.

For the entrepreneur building the next billion-dollar app, this means gaining a basic knowledge of coding and user interface design beforestarting a project. While it may take a little time and investment up front, it will ultimately save hours and thousands of dollars because you have a basic understanding of these worlds.

The smart entrepreneur understands that his or her investment in education will reward them with both short-term and long-term benefits.

2. It builds confidence.

Being an entrepreneur is one of the most challenging jobs, especially if you want to stand out in New York. There are constant hurdles, and you’re never short of opportunities to throw in the towel. On top of that, it’s easy to fall victim to your own doubts.

Learning a new skill and using it to push through a challenge can give entrepreneurs a massive boost in confidence. It’s been shown that there is a strong link between education and confidence. It gives you the motivation you need to push through the humps that come with being an entrepreneur.

3. It opens new opportunities.

One of the projects that challenged, but inspired, me the most was installing solar panels on the Atelier Condos. It forced me to learn everything I could about solar and renewable energy. On top of that, I got involved on the design side as we went through revisions trying to perfect and refine the use of the panels to add an efficient, yet modern element to the building.

By undertaking that project and learning about the future of solar, it opened so many new doors for me personally and professionally. And though the idea-to-implementation period was longer than I would’ve liked, it is by far one of the most rewarding projects I’ve tackled. In fact, I’m planning to install solar panels in other River 2 River properties.

I’m now able to talk fluently about solar technology and renewables, which has afforded me the opportunity to speak and write about sustainability and the non-profit space.

As an entrepreneur, you simply cannot predict what new business and personal opportunities you could unleash by learning something outside your comfort zone. Through it all, Atelier stands as a beautiful step forward for integrating alternative energy and modern aesthetics in New York City.

4. You’ll be sharper and happier.

I love real estate, particularly New York real estate, because it changes so fast. I have to stay abreast of current events, market shifts, etc., because the environment, neighborhoods and tastes of my clients evolve constantly. If I stop learning or if I stop reading, my business will suffer because there are people out there waiting to “eat my lunch.” I’m telling you, NYC real estate is not for the faint of heart.

Investing in your self-education keeps your skills, your brain and your outlook sharp so you have the ability to adapt. And the bonus is that constant learning also makes you a happier human being. Even amoebas get bored and unhappy when they keep getting hit with the same stimuli over and over again.

Not to mention, keeping your skills sharp will ward off things like Alzheimer’s. In other words, an active brain makes for a happier brain.

5. Your gray matter makes you better at business.

There is something to the old saying that “variety is the spice of life.” Entrepreneurship can be a grind. It’s easy to lose yourself in the constant responsibility and busywork. That’s when you start to get complacent. You develop blind spots and become vulnerable to your competition.

That’s why self-education is so important. Discovering new ideas that are unrelated to your business can release your creativity and give you perspective on your business that you would otherwise miss. Trust me, this can be the difference between life and death for your passion project.