Con Edison customers continued their rapid adoption of solar energy in 2020, despite the economic and logistical challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic. Customers in New York City and Westchester County, New York State, installed 5542 solar arrays during the year. These panels have the capacity to produce 44.77 MW, or 44.77 million watts of power.
"The pandemic caused a pause in construction and the recession created apprehension among people who wanted to invest in their homes and businesses," said Lenny Singh, Con Edison's senior vice president, customer energy solutions. "But it's a tribute to our customers that they continued to choose clean, renewable solar energy. Our customers are our greatest asset as we seek to lead our state and region toward a clean energy future."
Con Edison customers have now completed more than 35,700 projects with the capacity to produce 322 MW. These projects avoid 300,000 tons of carbon emissions and the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced by more than 64,000 cars. The panels installed by customers have the capacity to produce enough power to run more than four million 42-inch LED TVs.
A typical residential customer with a 6-kW solar array can generate enough power to provide up to US$700 in annual savings, helping reduce a bill by more than 60%.
Among the five boroughs of New York City and Westchester County, Queens has the most customer solar arrays — 11,334. When it comes to production, Westchester is the leader with the panels there having the capacity to produce 83.75 MW. Customers in Queens completed the most projects last year, 2064. The borough also added the most capacity, 13.35 MW.
Con Edison is encouraging customers to consider solar energy and trying to make the installation process faster, easier, and less expensive. The company recently began offering solar installers and their customers a device called Smart ConnectDER, which allows a customer to avoid the cost of upgrading a home's circuit breaker panel and excessive electrical boxes on the side of the house. The device can save a solar customer upwards of US$1000 and is available following a successful pilot program in 2019.
The company also sought and received New York State Public Service Commission approval to shorten the process for customers with solar projects up to 5 MW. Until this year, customers applying to interconnect these projects had to pay for a detailed engineering review that could take up to three months. This new process has shortened the interconnection timeline for dozens of projects.
Con Edison's efforts to speed the approval process include allowing developers to make payments electronically via Automated Clearing House or wire transfers. The company has also enhanced a software program that streamlines communication and project inquiries between developers, applicants, and Con Edison's Distributed Energy Services Group.
Through its Clean Energy Businesses, Con Edison Inc. is the second largest solar producer in North America and seventh largest in the world. The company also supports utility ownership of large-scale renewable generation in New York State. Utility ownership would be less costly for customers because utilities can finance and operate these projects less expensively than private developers.