2014-08-01 / Top Stories

Solatube: Lighting The Way After Sandy

By Julie Sickel


The rooftop of the Association of Energy Affordability in the Bronx, where NYC Daylighting installed a Solatube system. The rooftop of the Association of Energy Affordability in the Bronx, where NYC Daylighting installed a Solatube system. Local business owner Michael Shea has deep roots in Rockaway. His father lived here and his grandfather before that. He went to school at St. Francis de Sales, learned to surf on Rockaway's beaches and grew up loving the boardwalk.

Shea said he'd hoped to be a pro basketball player as a kid, but instead he moved to California in his early 20s, attended Palomar College and became a general contractor, specializing in sustainable, energy-efficient construction.

He returned to the peninsula in 2009 and moved into his childhood home on Beach 119th Street. As Shea worked to renovate the old house, he realized there wasn't a business in the area that specialized in the work he was doing in California.

Thus, NYC Daylighting was born.

Shea co-owns the company with his wife of 32 years, Susan. The two met at a hair salon in California and Shea likes to joke it was the most expensive haircut he ever got.

“I’m still paying for it,” he said.

NYC Daylighting focuses mainly on the Solatube Daylighting System, a technology that implements pipes to capture daylight and illuminate interior spaces without the need for electricity.

The pipes, Shea explained, bring light into a room similar to a skylight, but without increasing the room temperature the way a skylight does. Installation is also much quicker, with the process promised to take only a couple hours.

It's a technology that's gained the attention of the New York City Economic Development Corporation. NYC Daylighting is one of 37 finalists in NYCEDC's RISE:NYC and was recently spotlighted on the NYCEDC blog.

RISE, or Resiliency Innovations for a Stronger Economy, will award up to $30 million to multiple projects it believes will make New York City's businesses more resilient to the impacts of future storms and climate change, according to the competition website. A single project could receive between $500,000 to $10 million in grant money.

If the company is selected for RISE, it will install systems in more than 40 Rockaway businesses damaged by Sandy.

“I am happy to be part of the competition and glad to be of some help to the local businesses we are working with.” Shea said.

NYC Daylighting lost its entire stock when Sandy hit, but has been able to recover in the time since, thanks in part to Shea’s son Michael, who works for Solatube in San Diego.

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