Solar power is beginning to take a bite out of the Big Apple’s energy demands. Installations of photovoltaics have more than doubled over the past year, says New York utility Con Edison.
ConEd customers in New York City and Westchester County, an affluent northern suburb of Manhattan, added 4.5 megawatts of renewable energy to the grid in 2010. 203 solar projects were added to the grid in 2010, up from 134 the previous year.
There is now a total of 8.5 megawatts of photovoltaic-generated electricity on ConEd’s system. The utility is partnering with the City University of New York (CUNY) on the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar America City program, which was initiated in 2007 to advance the adoption of solar technologies.
“We reached out to our customers and explained the economic and environmental benefits of using sun power in their homes and businesses,” said Robert Schimmenti, Con Edison’s vice president for engineering and planning. “We shortened our approval process for residential systems – those under 25 kilowatts – and created a website where customers can submit their applications.”
CUNY will chart the progress of the city’s Solar America City plan on a public Web site later this year, said Tria Case, the university’s director of sustainability. ConEd already maintains a Web site for customers interested in installing solar panels, and is working to improve coordination for approvals across government agencies.
The utility has been investing in modernizing its energy infrastructure over the past several years. In 2009, it launched a pilot program to test new smart grid communications technologies in the borough of Queens.
ConEd embarked on additional projects last year that were made possible through US$181M in federal funding rewarded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.
The funds were used to deploy intelligent grid systems throughout ConEd’s service area, as well as to provide real-time analysis of grid conditions in the control rooms, how to support electric vehicles, and to bring customer generated renewable energy sources back into the grid.