Real estate has taken on a whole new dimension. Urban and vertical farming is becoming more popular, as is solar and wind energy production, but space to develop these industries – especially in dense urban areas – is scarce. Naomi Younger developed a viable, symbiotic solution to this quandary. Individuals or organizations that own or lease buildings with a lot of roof space need electricity and food, and power and food producers need space. In order to bring them together, Younger developed SEGlet, a website listing of rooftops and other open spaces. Here’s how it works.
Some buildings that are ideal for distributed agriculture or energy production include: colleges, condos, health clubs, healthcare facilities, hospitals, warehouses, and water treatment facilities.
The ideal space a solar facility requires is 20,000 sq feet, while an ideal urban farm could use 5,000 sq feet.
There are essentially two kinds of leases for solar (this could also pertain to wind energy) and two for agriculture, though they work on the same principle:
In some North American states, Independent Power Producers (IPP) receive a Feed-In-Tariff for energy produced. In this case, they might be interested in entering into a flat lease. Utility companies trying to meet their Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) or boost distributed power generation may also be interested in this arrangement.
A power purchase agreement (PPA) is more appropriate for IPPs that do not receive a FIT from their local or provincial government. They might want to structure a lease that allows them to sell back energy to the property owner at a competitive rate, and possibly long-term set rate.
Under current food distribution systems, according to SEGlet, food often travels 14 days before reaching its final destination. This increases both the food’s carbon footprint and its price. As such, urban agriculturalists can enter into a flat lease, whereby they pay their rent and sells their produce to various food distributors, and reduce both carbon and prices.
Or, they might choose to enter into a shared-profit agreement, which would give the property owner good, local, fresh food, as well as a marketing edge, and the farmer has a cozy roof on which to farm. This agreement would have to be flexible, and would depend on the producers business model.
Nothing is ever simple
There are potential legal issues associated with agreements such as these, which, based on the SEGlet’s site, seem to favor the landowner over the producer. Certain issues that have to be considered: the integrity of the roof and structure has to be verified, there must be limits to alteration, snow removal could be a problem, equipment may be subject to a personal property security interest, and maintenance and repairs must be taken seriously. Also, it may be necessary for the producer to move their equipment if repairs have to be made.
The legal issues, as well as a list of un-affiliated attorneys who specialize in them, is well detailed on the SEGlet website.
SEGlet lists a number of states that are considered “hot markets” for green roof sharing, but none of them are in the Middle East. Though the founder conceived the idea in Tel Aviv, North America – with its various government incentive programs – offers a more favorable market for these sublets.
But that should not prevent Middle Eastern producers and roof owners from pursuing something similar. Israel and the rest of the Middle East are famed for their roof spaces. The biggest obstacle in this region will be replacing summertime revelers with food and energy production equipment.
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