Etsy gets crafty with solar commitments

Despite its long-time status as a B Corporation, craft marketplace Etsy has been relatively quiet about specific commitments to sourcing renewable energy. In late April, it broke that silence.

The company’s sustainability team is spearheading two creative initiatives that should help put more solar energy on the grid near its headquarters location in Brooklyn, New York, as well as in several other states including Florida, West Virginia and Utah.

Etsy’s goal is to transition its offices to 100 percent renewable energy by 2020.

The Brooklyn installation is being made possible through a remote net metering arrangement that it is finalizing in collaboration with its landlord and a local solar developer. Through the deal, Etsy will procure solar power from an array near the John F. Kennedy International Airport to offset its power consumption at its new 200,000-square-foot headquarters building.

The 10-year-long contract will be similar to one announced in September by media company Bloomberg, according to Chelsea Mozen, senior energy and carbon specialist for Etsy. 

Remote net metering initiatives allow organizations that can’t invest in significant on-site installations to benefit from capacity added elsewhere on the same section of a local grid.

Etsy’s contract wasn’t finalized when GreenBiz spoke with Mozen, but it should cover from 1 megawatts to 1.5 megawatts of power, she said. Aside from reducing the company’s carbon footprint, the deal should allow Etsy to procure electricity for this site at about 80 percent of current rates.

Etsy is also planning a small 12-kilowatt rooftop display on the roof of the new building, primarily to build visibility for the technology with employees and visitors to the site. That installation will cover 1 percent to 2 percent of the building’s power needs, Mozen noted.

Most of the company’s 800-person workforce eventually will be at its new location, although Etsy has nine additional offices around the world.

Discounts for the Etsy community

Aside from what it is doing directly, Etsy is testing a new program that encourages the "community" of sellers that make up its marketplace to adopt solar power — there are currently more than 1.6. million active sellers worldwide. Its idea is to count the offsets generated by these distributed installations toward the emissions generated by Etsy shipments, which the company figures account for 95 of the company’s "negative environmental impact."

"A good majority of our sellers work from home," Mozen said. "That’s a lot of rooftops."

Etsy Solar provides discounts to Etsy-related organizations in Florida, New York, West Virginia and Utah using rates it negotiated with Geostellar, which uses satellite imagery to calculate a building’s solar "potential." The states were picked not necessarily because a lot of sellers were based in those locations but because they are places where Etsy would like to see more renewable energy added to the local grid. The discounts are based on the social cost of carbon, as figured by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They will vary depending the state. In Florida, for example, there are few incentives to encourage solar installations despite the abundant sunlight.  

 

The installations will qualify for verified Gold Standard offsets, which sellers can transfer to Etsy if desired. The company hopes to sign up at least 300 program participants by fall 2016. From there, it will determine what course to take with program, Mozen said.

"This is the first program of its kind that uses distributed solar to generate verified offsets for a single project, and an important opportunity to work together to responsibly seek solutions to our collective impact," she wrote in the company’s blog post about the new initiative.