A new study conducted by Penn State found that construction of new community solar facilities would generate an estimated $1.8 billion in economic impact, create over $793 million in labor income, and support over 11,000 jobs in various sectors across Pennsylvania. The study, conducted by the Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences’ Center for Economic and Community Development, analyzed 235 planned community solar projects across 48 counties which can move ahead if community solar legislation passes the General Assembly.
According to the study, once operating, these facilities are projected to generate over $83 million in economic output annually and support 520 ongoing full-time jobs across the commonwealth, as well as generate an additional $574,260 in annual real property tax collections for municipalities in 48 rural and urban counties.
“The construction of community solar projects should create economic opportunity across Pennsylvania, for residents of every county,” said report author Tim Kelsey of Penn State’s Center for Economic and Community Development. “These projects will not be confined to just one region, but rather will be spread across broad swaths of the state, offering counties the potential to capture jobs and tax revenues in their own local economies.”
According to the analysis, the top ten statewide sectors expected to benefit from community solar operations include construction, hospitality and healthcare, which have been among the hardest hit in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Pennsylvania is a state with diverse energy resources, and community solar provides an important opportunity to foster good-paying renewable energy jobs,” said Anthony Seiwell, business manager for the Laborers’ District Council of Eastern Pennsylvania. “These projections of construction jobs and wages resulting from the construction of community solar projects offer an exciting opportunity for union workers and their families. We look forward to working with our partners to move this measure forward through the legislative process as quickly as possible.”
Legislation pending in both the state House of Representatives and Senate would authorize the creation of community solar projects, which refer to small, local solar facilities shared by multiple community subscribers who receive credit on their electricity bills for their share of the power produced. Participation in community solar is voluntary and passage of the legislation would not increase taxes or state investment.
While 20 other states as well as the District of Columbia permit such projects, Pennsylvania utility rules prevent similar installations in the commonwealth.
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 eliminate regulatory red tape and create a community solar program that enables Pennsylvania businesses and families to sign up for community solar projects, regardless of their income level or whether they own their home.
“This new report highlights the tremendous economic boost community solar projects can provide to communities across the commonwealth, including rural, urban and suburban regions,” said Leslie Elder, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access, a coalition of businesses and non-profits aiming to expand consumer choice through improving community solar access. “I urge the General Assembly to act quickly to pass community solar legislation so our cities and towns and the hard-working people of Pennsylvania can begin to realize these substantial economic benefits.”
Collectively, each community solar project can lead to significant customer savings. With over 1,000 MW planned across the state, Pennsylvania’s electricity customers will save over $30 million per year through community solar participation.
The Center for Economic and Community Development conducted the study in September 2020 on behalf of the Coalition for Community Solar Access, a member of the PA Community Solar Economic Alliance. The Center looked at the economic impacts of both building new community solar installations (“construction” phase) and the continuing economic impact of operating these installations (“operation” phase).
The analysis also took into account that construction of manufacturing panels currently takes place outside Pennsylvania’s borders. A new community solar market will likely lead to the creation of new companies and capabilities, potentially including manufacturing of solar panels and related equipment in-state. If this occurs, it would increase projected economic investment and job creation in the commonwealth.
News item from the PA Community Solar Economic Alliance