What About Clean Energy?

This past weekend the city hosted its first sustainability “hackathon” called Reinvent Green, a joint collaboration between NYC Digital, the Mayor’s Office of Long-Term Planning and Sustainability, Polytechnic Institute of New York University (NYU-Poly) and Brooklyn Beta. In this two-day-long competition, candidates were asked to create digital tools and apps that would encourage a “greener, greater New York.” The “greener, greater” parameters were established five years ago in 2007, when Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced the ambitious plan called PlaNYC, to respond to climate change, improve the quality of life for New Yorkers, and build a stronger economy.

Technology plays a major role in achieving the PlaNYC goals. The new applied science campuses taking root on Roosevelt Island and in Downtown Brooklyn are supported by the city. With the installation of solar panels on ten city buildings this past April, the city’s solar power production has tripled to 648 kilowatts. And Bloomberg is nurturing the tech sector itself. According to the report New Tech City by the Center for an Urban Future, over 1,000 tech start-ups have been founded in the past five years. Some of those companies, such as Tumblr, Gilt Groupe and Foursquare, offer tools that enable the success of other companies in turn.

PlaNYC’s vision of a “greener, greater New York” includes reducing carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030. But the number of clean tech start-ups – companies designing the tools needed to make renewable energy – are nowhere near the number of start-ups in other sectors like digital tech or fashion tech. According to the Center for an Urban Future report, most of the growth in start-ups have been Web-based and in creating mobile technologies. The low barrier to entry for Internet start-ups and the city’s large pool of software programmers makes the digital realm attractive to the next generation of creative thinkers.

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