Solar power more than doubled in New York City and Westchester County last year as Con Edison customers installed 4.5 MW of photovoltaic generation.

Con Edison, which is working with the City University of New York on the U.S. Department of Energy's Solar America City program, now has 8.5 MW of photovoltaic-generated electricity on its system. One megawatt can power up to 1,000 homes.

Customers completed 203 solar projects last year, up from 134 new installations a year earlier.

"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 kW -- and created a website where customers can submit their applications."

Tria Case, University Director of Sustainability at CUNY and lead implementer of the NYC Solar America City plan, said: "The 2010 numbers show that by working together to improve the process we can help NYC adopt solar energy and other clean technologies. This is only the beginning. Later this year we will launch an interactive Solar Map that will be accessible to the public and that will help planners chart NYC's clean energy future."

Con Edison's website provides information about the process for installing solar panels and links to the NYC Solar America City website, along with sites that explain the financial incentives governments offer. The site also includes information on net metering, the practice of allowing customers to use their solar panels to reduce their bills and even sell excess power back to Con Edison.

Con Edison is working with city and state agencies and CUNY on the 100 Days of Solar program, which aims to reduce the time it takes a customer to get the approvals to install solar panels by improving coordination across agencies.