Fall 2015 Capstone Final Presentations

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Developing Solar Projects Across the U.S.

Instructor: Brendan Noakes

In this capstone seminar, students developed commercial solar energy projects for NYU as a solar energy investor. They explored how commercial solar projects around the U.S. require tax credits, solar energy funds and real estate partners to sufficiently develop an economical mid-scale solar project. The course explained how solar and renewable energy assets, in general, are shifting to becoming a mainstream solution for investors and universities alike. Students learned how to navigate complicated financial structures to ensure there is a win-win for the investor, the real estate partner, and the energy user. This seminar focused on a key element of Distributed Generation which highlights the mid-scale commercial solar energy market as the biggest opportunity for the U.S. right now.

Join us today in conveying the financial benefits of developing a solar project from start to finish in the U.S. What was once a risky investment is now a staple opportunity for many solar investors/developers.

BagItNYC Fall 2015 Observational Survey

Instructor: Kizzy Charles‐Guzman

New Yorkers use and discard a staggering 10 billion disposable, single-use bags every year. Many of those bags are never recycled because there is a limited market for plastic bag recycling in the United States. Simply put, it is more costly and difficult to recycle a plastic bag than to produce a new one. As a result, New York City’s Department of Sanitation estimates that they collect more than 1,700 tons of single-use bags in residential trash, spending our tax dollars—more than $12 million per year—to dispose of it in landfills in other states. In response, several city council members and a variety of groups are backing a new City Council bill that aims to reduce paper and plastic bag usage by charging consumers ten cents per bag at most stores.

This capstone seminar took a comprehensive look at the advocacy campaign being led by BagItNYC to enact this legislation in New York City and evaluated strategies that can build upon existing efforts to decrease the number of bags that are discarded annually by New Yorkers.  In support of the BagItNYC coalition, students adapted a detailed protocol for and implemented an observational survey of what carryout bags New Yorkers are currently using at key retailers. The survey results will help make the case for the pending legislation and it will provide baseline data to compare the number of single-use bags being consumed in NYC neighborhoods after a bag charge goes into effect.

The Wildlife of Welikia: Making Visions of the Ecological City

Instructor: Eric Sanderson

The Mannahatta Project changed how New Yorkers see their city, literally and figuratively, juxtaposing the urban, culturally diverse landscape of Manhattan to the forested, ecologically diverse island of Mannahatta, as it existed just prior to European discovery 400 years ago [see Mannahatta:A Natural History of New York City(Abrams, 2009), and welikia.org.] In this capstone seminar, advanced Environmental Studies students will work with Dr. Eric Sanderson of the Wildlife Conservation Society, to launch Mannahatta beyond the boundaries of Manhattan and encompass the rest of New York City:from the beaches of Brooklyn to the river valleys of the Bronx,from the seascape of Queens to the forested uplands of Staten Island. Students will learn how to synthesize materials across a broad sweep of disciplines (including urban planning, geomorphology, landscape ecology, archaeology and conservation biology) within a geographically uniform, computational framework, based on geographic information system
(GIS) analysis of historical and modern documents. These technical geographic operations will be placed in context by practical and theoretical considerations of how the past shapes the present, and how the choices we make about the environment, considered wholistically, create the future
for people as part of nature in New York City.

Specifically this capstone will focus on generating visions of ecological futures for New York City using the Visionmaker.nyc platform (beta) developed by the Welikia Project at the Wildlife Conservation Society. Visionmaker.nyc is a tool to enable anyone, from kids to policymakers, to develop and share visions of the city in the future.  Visionmaker.nyc rapidly and realistically calculates performance metrics for visions, currently oriented around measures of the carbon cycle, water cycle, biodiversity, population and economic cost.  Future metrics may include public health and social justice.