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Thank-You letter from the school and Energy-Environment Research Club (E2RC)

Personal letter from a BDCA student.

Thank You video from E2RC student.

Receive a super cool Bronx Design and Construction Academy t-shirt!

Your name listed on the Sponsors-sign next to our GRiPV-c setup

What am I seeing here?

Hi Divvy Supporters!

Many people assume that green roofs and solar power are mutually exclusive: they think you can have one, but not both. Our high-school's research project aims to show that this isnot true. In fact, we believe that synergies exist when the two are combined!

So far, our students have designed and built a mock-up Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaic Canopy (GRiPV-c) loaded with sensors and they have presented their first results at the World Renewable Energy Forum in 2012. Noel, 14 and Elton, 15, were the youngest ever to present at the renowned conference. These results were obtained using black plastic sheets as 'solar panels', so now we're fundraising to use REAL solar panels. Support our Divvy project and help us nail down our hypothesis!

Noel and Elton collecting data from the first experimental setup.

The Story

Our Energy-Environment Research Club students at Bronx Design & Construction Academy in the South Bronx collaborated with Columbia University to build a model Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaic Canopy on our school's green roof. Students were vital in the construction and continue to be deeply involved in the data collecting process. Last year they spoke to an established international group of professional renewable energy practitioners and researchers at the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) World Renewable Energy Forum. This year we took 2nd place for all of the Americas in the Zayed Future Energy Prize where we presented at the annual World Future Energy Summit (ADSW) during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. Watch another cool video of our Zayed project here.

Our goal is to build a second experimental setup and prove that solar panels and green roofs can co-exist on the same roof and actually perform better together. If this research confirms our hypothesis, we might fundraise in the future for a full-scale, grid-connected system on our rooftop.

Our first Green Roof Integrated PV experiment setup with mock-up solar panels.

Summary of Research:

This research focuses on the mutual benefit of green roofs and solar panels. Last year, we built four model homes on Bronx Design & Construction Academy's green roof in the South Bronx: one house as a 'control roof', one with a green roof, one fixed 'photovoltaic system' over gravel, and a Green-Roof Integrated Photovoltaic Canopy (see picture). Our aim was to quantify the positive impact of a combined green roof and photovoltaic canopy system on the PV canopy system efficiencies, the efficiency of roof mounted HVAC air handling units, and on the health of the green roof vegetation.

FLTR: 'standard' gravel roof, green roof, GRiPV-c, and a photovoltaic system on a gravel roof.

Why Solar and Green Roofs make sense:

Solar cells love sunny, but cold enviroments. The lower the solar panel's temperature, the higher its power output. This effect is quantified by a panel's 'Temperature Coefficient', which is about -0.5%/C for multi-crystalline solar cells. This means that if you can keep your solar panel 10 degrees cooler, you will produce 5% more electricity at the end of the day. This is exactly why green roofs make sense: they keep the panels at a lower temperature, and therefore allow higher PV power production. In our first experiment, when we used black plastic as 'solar panels', we measured a 10 degree difference between the GRiPV and PV-over-gravel setup. Now we want to measure actual power output in addition to temperature and irradiance, but for that we need your help!

Support Us!

With your contribution, we can test our research hypothesis using real solar panels and use the generated solar electricity in our classroom! Our components list includes:

  • 6 solar panels
  • Batteries
  • Cables
  • Inverters
  • Data acquisition hub
  • Sensors for temperature (8) & irradiance (2)

Can we count on your help? Our students (and teachers) love this project and we'd like to keep this momentum going! We'll be posting updates on our Divvy page as well as our websites below...

Please contribute some Divs and/or share this project with your friends :)

Learn more about our project:



Media Coverage:



Update #1: Only $2,700 more to go!

Update #2: On Our Green Roof!

Update #3: Fundraising at School

Our fundrasing efforts at school have been paying off - thanks to all the teachers who donated! 

Update #4: Smalls Electrical Support!

There is nothing "small" about the recent donation from Mr. Jeffrey Smalls, President and CEO of Smalls Electrical Construction.  His donation completes our crowd funding efforts!!

Mr. Smalls, a founding member of Bronx Design and Construction Academy, is a highly respected and supportive industry partner who has hired our students right out of high school to work in the electrical installation and practice industry.  There would be nothing to fundraise for if it weren't for Mr. Smalls arduously fighting for the importance of our building trade program and related opportunities for  students.

MANY thanks Mr. Smalls for your continued support!!!


Update #5: Project Funded!

MANY thanks to all of YOU for helping fund this project!

Our Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaic Canopy project will turn from a pilot study into an actual study on our rooftop, and prove that solar panels and green roofs can co-exist on the same roof and actually perform better together!

This wouldn't have been possible without all of your support!!

I'll keep you all updated on our progress.

If you donated enough Divs, you'll receive either a letter, T-shirt, or video from our students. Please email me your address so I send you your reward!  Email me at


Nathaniel Thayer Wight 
Bronx Design & Construction Academy |


Update #6: Update!

Thank you again for all of your generous donations! Because of you all, we are able to scale up our pilot project to a study that collects actual solar PV performance data. Most exciting about this project is how it will integrate into our electrical practice and installation, plumbing, carpentry, Heating, Ventilating, and Air Condition (HVAC), and pre-engineering / architectural drafting shop classes.

We'll start the preliminary design with Bronx Design and Construction Academy students after our holiday and construction will begin in February. We aim to have the system up by spring. Note: You'll receive updates and it may seem that this project will move slow; this is because we want to maximize the learning opportunity for our students during the design and installation phase of this project. The post installation data collection and maintenance phase will provide tremendous ongoing learning opportunities as well!

If you haven't already, please send your address to me at

Thanks, and happy holidays!

Nathaniel Thayer Wight 
Bronx Design & Construction Academy |

Update #7: Thank You!

Here's a thank you note  my students created -thanks for all of your support, we'll keep you updated on our progress!

Update #8: Students Show Appreciation!

As you know, our Green Roof Integrated Photovoltaic Canopy project was recently funded through Divvy Solar‘s solar panel crowd funding platform. Thanks to everyone who made this a reality! Here are our very appreciative students sending thank you letters to those who donated to this project. Thanks everyone!

Update #9: Next Steps!

As many of you already know, parallel to fundraising via DivvySolar's platform, Bronx Design & Construction Academy also applied for the prestigious Zayed Future Energy Prize - and we won for the Americas region! We were one of 5 global schools, and the only in the Americas, to win this prize!  As recipients students traveled to Abu Dhabi for the award ceremony and participation in Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week. The prize will be used during the 2014-2015 school year to build an Energy-Environment Research Center (E2RC) in front of our school.

E2RC will help our future energy leaders of tomorrow identify and implement holistic, sustainable solutions to address local, national, and global environmental issues.

  • Provide a model educational center where both students and community members can study renewable energy systems.
  • Provide a showcase of cutting-edge renewable energy systems that will be visible and available at street-level for students, professionals, academics, engineers, and visitors to learn from.
  • Provide an off grid emergency power facility that can be used by the community during power outages and times of need.
  • Power an off grid greenhouse used to grow organic produce and sell to the community.

I mention all of this because, thanks to YOUR support, we will be adding our Green Roof Integrated PV Canopy research project into this center!  We've already started organizing and designing the system, but since the location of our GRiPVc system has changed, we'll begin installation - along with our Energy-Environment Research Center - this summer/fall.  This IS exciting as it will ensure our GRiPVc experiment is a much bigger part of our student academic lives.

Here's a picture of students designing E2RC and including our GRiPVc research!

More to come!


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Project Initiator:

Nathaniel Wight
Science Teacher, Bronx Design and Construction Academy