- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 3, 2016

NEW YORK (AP) - Mayor Bill de Blasio wants to increase the solar power capacity of city-owned buildings five-fold from what it is now, mayoral aides said Wednesday.

The push comes as part of an ambitious plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the country’s most populous city by 80 percent by 2050.

De Blasio plans to make the announcement in his State of the City address Thursday in the Bronx.

As part of the new initiative, the panels will be placed on 88 additional buildings, including 66 schools, the Queens Museum, Bellevue Hospital and the Abe Stark Ice Skating Rink on Coney Island.

“New York City is a global leader in taking on climate change,” de Blasio said in a statement given to The Associated Press on Wednesday. “We have no choice but to move toward renewables and away from fossil fuels. The future of our city and our planet depend on it.”

Currently, 35 city-owned buildings have solar installations, producing nearly 5 megawatts of power, up from 0.7 megawatts when de Blasio took office in early 2014. A megawatt can power more than 150 homes, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The new plan will add 19 megawatts. The mayor’s aides said it will help the city reach its goal of generating 100 megawatts of renewable energy in public buildings by 2015.

The solar construction - part of an effort to retrofit all public buildings to make them more environmentally friendly by 2025 - will be partly funded through a power purchasing agreement that allows the city to avoid up-front costs, aides said. The existing solar installations have created about $1.2 million in annual savings, according to city statistics.

De Blasio is breaking with tradition in delivering this year’s State of the City address. Instead of delivering the annual speech in the afternoon, he’s delivering the address at night in the hopes of landing more television and Internet livestream viewers.

His aides have previewed some of his new proposals, including an app that allows drivers to pay parking meters via their phones; an economic development project for Governor’s Island, the 22-acre national monument that sits in New York Harbor near the Statue of Liberty; and a $2.5 billion streetcar system that would run for 16 miles along the Brooklyn and Queens waterfront.

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