By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor
New York—Work has started on an oil-to-gas conversion at the Strand, a 42-story condominium tower on West 43rd Street in Manhattan. The goal of the conversion, undertaken by FS Energy, the energy management subsidiary of FirstService Corp., is to replace No. 6 heating oil with natural gas in advance of the phase-out of that kind of heating oil by 2015.
In January of this year, the New York City Department of Environmental Protection issued a rule that will phase out both No. 4 and No. 6 heating oils in the city. Permits for No. 6 oil, which is widely regarded as the dirtiest kind of oil to burn, will be phased out in four years, while going forward permits for No. 4 oil will be denied when a building replaces its boiler. Only about 1 percent of the city’s buildings currently burn either of these kinds of heating oil, but some estimates put their production of soot as greater than the combined output of cars and trucks on the city’s streets.
The Strand is managed by FirstService’s New York City affiliate Cooper Square Realty, which manages more than 450 condominiums and cooperatives–100 of which are currently burning No. 6 oil. The conversion, expected to be completed by the end of this year, comes after FS Energy conducted an analysis that produced a number of recommendations to improve energy efficiency in the building, including the benefits of converting to natural gas.
In the last year alone, FS Energy says it has contracted to conduct energy improvements on more than 70 buildings managed by Cooper Square Realty, the largest residential property management company in New York City. For those burning dirty heating oil, this often means a conversion to natural gas.
For the conversion at the Strand, the company was able to take advantage of financial incentives offered by New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and Con Edison, which significantly lowered the necessary upfront capital investment. When factoring in the NYSERDA grant and ConEd incentive, and based upon the expected reduction in energy costs, the net cost of the retrofit will pay for itself in less than a year, according to FS Energy.