There are at least 220 community solar projects in 41 counties across Pennsylvania ready to break ground, pending legislative action in Harrisburg, according to a new analysis by the PA Community Solar Economic Alliance, a local industry and advocacy group. The projects would serve an estimated 250,000 homes and businesses, including customers in every utility territory across the commonwealth.
Community solar projects allow residents and business owners to sign up to purchase electricity from local solar installations, many of which are located on nearby farms. Subscribers then receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced, saving them money.
Counties with five or more community solar projects that stand ready to come online include:
Berks, Bucks, Centre, Chester, Columbia, Dauphin, Erie, Lancaster, Lebanon, Lycoming, Mercer, Monroe, Montgomery, Northumberland, Schuylkill, Wayne, Westmoreland and York.
While 20 other states permit these types of programs, Pennsylvania’s utility laws don’t allow competition and currently block community solar projects.
“This analysis of solar energy leases shows the potential economic impact community solar projects could have across Pennsylvania,” said Leslie Elder, mid-Atlantic director for CCSA, a coalition of businesses and non-profits whose members were surveyed. “At a time when our communities are suffering from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the General Assembly needs to take action now to eliminate this legal impediment and allow these local projects to advance. Without raising taxes, this program will generate tax revenue and local investment for municipalities across the commonwealth and help customers to save on their energy bills.”
HB531 and SB705, which are being sponsored by Representative Aaron Kaufer in the state House of Representatives and Senator Mario Scavello in the Senate, respectively, would change utility law to permit Pennsylvania businesses and families to sign up for community solar projects if it’s right for them, regardless of their income level or if they own their home. There is no cost to taxpayers.
The Alliance’s analysis of solar energy leases highlights the significant opportunity for farmers and rural communities in Pennsylvania. The data show an array of companies are already making investments on the ground, particularly in rural regions where many potential projects are located on small portions of agricultural land. Community solar projects can be designed to work alongside active farming operations, as crops can be planted under and around solar panels.
Community solar projects provide a new opportunity for Pennsylvania farmers to generate additional monthly revenue in a tough economic environment that has exacerbated the challenges they already face in generating stable and predictable streams of revenue.
“At a time of prolonged economic uncertainty, we need to continue to give our farmers new tools to innovate and generate sources of revenue that will support individual farms and revitalize rural communities,” said Darrin Youker, director of state government affairs for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
The Pennsylvania House Consumer Affairs Committee will hold an informational meeting on community solar on Tuesday, September 1. Those presenting testimony will include CCSA and Community Energy, a Radnor, Pennsylvania- based developer of solar projects.
News item from PA Community Solar Economic Alliance
There are community solar bills languishing in committee in both houses of the legislature. This has enabled senators and representatives in competitive districts to come out in favor of a bill that they know will never receive a vote. It’s called political cover.