Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Yorkers are warming up to solar power thanks to Con Edison's program

BY Mike Jaccarino

Sunday, March 20th 2011, 4:00 AM

Con Edison says 144 customers in the city installed the panels last year, up threefold from 2009.
Con Edison says 144 customers in the city installed the panels last year, up threefold from 2009.

Con Edison's solar-panel program is turning more New Yorkers into sun worshipers - and helping them cut their power bills. The utility says 144 customers in the city installed the panels last year, up almost threefold from 2009.  There are now 273 customers in the five boroughs converting sun power into electricity, saving some green while going green. "It's a win for everybody," said Staten Islander Nicholas LaMonica, 68, who put 36 2-by-4-foot panels atop his two-family home in September. "I save money. The environment gets less carbon dioxide, and Con Ed has less peak demand. It's a no-brainer."

The panels absorb the sun's rays and convert heat into direct-current electricity. An inverter changes the DC power into the alternating-current variety used by appliances and air conditioners. If customers produce excess power, they sell it back to Con Ed for cash and credits. If they need more, the system taps into Con Ed's grid. "It's been a great thing," said Cliff Blaker, 40, president of Miller Blaker, a South Bronx woodworking company that paid $250,000 for 200 panels on its two-story building in 2009.
With a 40% reduction in the company's power bills in 2010, Blaker estimates it will take five years to recoup the installation cost - all while giving Mother Nature a big hand.  Like the others, Blaker's system tallies the carbon dioxide kept out of the air: 67,000 pounds in 2010, equivalent to what 1,400 mature trees consume annually.
"How can you argue with that?" said Blaker. "It's a wonderful thing."
LaMonica leveraged tax breaks and rebates for solar customers to lower the $52,000 installation tab to less than $10,000. The New York Energy Research and Development Authority gave him $16,000 that went directly to the installer. Uncle Sam gave him a 30% tax credit on the remaining $36,000. The state ponied up a 25% tax credit of up to $5,000, and the city handed him a 35% credit on his property taxes over four years, he said. With his 2010 power bills only 25% of what they were in 2009, he said, "I'll make it all back in four years. It's so good, I'm getting my daughter to do it on her house on Staten Island, too."
Margarett Jolly, a Con Ed solar specialist, said the utility is hoping to sell more customers on the panels. "We have a ways to go, but there's a lot of potential in the city," she said.

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