The Sun Shines Brightly On the Keystone State
Pennsylvania has long been associated with energy. As a leader in coal production and nuclear energy for years, the state has been a source of power for years.
The legacy of power production continues as Pennsylvania holds a strong place in the top ten ranked states for renewable energy. Through state support, residential solar in Pennsylvania and small business solar energy programs are incentivized through renewable energy mandates and rebates for solar electric and solar hot water systems. Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard has one of the more ambitious solar provisions in the country. In fact, it requires that solar energy generate 0.5 percent of the commonwealth’s electricity by 2020 — enough power for almost 80,000 homes. It is expected to produce more than 700 megawatts of new solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity throughout the state.
At NASS (North American Solar Stores) we are seeing that as a goal that will likely be reached much sooner. In view of the ever-increasing big power utility rates, more and more consumers are opting for the energy independence that solar powered homes can offer. The price point is making solar not only the clean energy alternative but also a sound long-term economic choice too. Getting a handle on home energy costs is appealing. After all, once the initial cost of purchasing and installing a solar panel system is factored in, the energy is free for years after that. Today in Pennsylvania you can easily finance the solar purchase and trade in your utility bill for a monthly pay-down of your free energy plant. And the kicker comes when the investment is paid for and you enjoy solar energy at no cost for years to come.
Through the state’s $100 million Sunshine Solar rebate program, homeowners and small businesses have been earning rebates for installing solar electric and solar hot water systems. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, a 2.5-kilowatt solar system can produce about 3,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year in Pennsylvania — at least one-third of a typical home’s consumption, leading to an annual household savings of roughly $300.
Pennsylvania colleges are partnering with Community Energy on the largest solar project ever built in Pennsylvania through a multi-year commitments to 100% clean energy for their campuses. Community Energy will supply them with a portion of the clean energy generation from the Keystone Solar Project that Community Energy plans to build this year in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Long-term commitments to purchase Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) helps drive new solar development.
Things have been humming right along for solar power. Pennsylvania’s solar industry exploded when state tax incentives were initiated in 2009 under the PA Sunshine Program. It rode on the coattails of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act (AEPS act) enacted back in 2004.
Under the AEPS Act, utility companies are required to purchase a growing percentage of electricity generated by solar facilities, called solar renewable energy credits. The goal was to reach .5 percent of electricity produced by solar energy by 2020.
The PA Sunshine Program, a four level rebate program, was designed to be an incentive for residential and small commercial business to install solar panels. This program is expected to end soon.
Under the AEPS act, utility companies are required to purchase a growing percentage of electricity generated by solar facilities, called Solar Renewable Energy Credits. A Solar Renewable Energy Credit (SREC) is one megawatt of power generated by a solar facility. Businesses and homeowners can increase the return on their solar panels by selling excess SRECs to electric companies.
Due to the incentives originally put in place, there was an explosion of production. According to one not for profit advocacy, there are about 71 megawatts of solar energy being generated in Pennsylvania. This is enough to satisfy the state’s solar requirements over the next three years. Law of supply and demand dictates that this causes the value of the SREC to the producer to drop. Some complain that the fact Pennsylvania allows out of state systems to register and sell their SRECs in PA makes the situation worse.
In late 2011 Rep. Chris Ross, R-Chester proposed a Bill 1580 to effect the requirements on how much solar energy utilities are required to buy between the years 2012 and 2015. Most recently the bill went before the House Consumer Affairs Committee on January 11, 2012 where it met some resistance from Committee Chair Rep. Bob Godshall (R-Montgomery) . Since the January hearing Rep. Chris Ross has worked hard to develop some compromises to HB-1580 that might help the bill make it through a tough Committee vote. If the bill makes it out of Committee it has a projected 110 co-sponsors in the House and substantial Senate support in a companion bill.
This all said, the future of buyback programs are bright and net metering is an extremely viable method of incentivization for solar development Further, The homeowner or small business owner should be heartened as he/she realizes that there are grants available and other financial benefits for going solar as well. In some municipalities, like Philadelphia for example, there are streamlining programs for permits and fee reduction programs in place to help incentivize the use of solar energy.
A common use of solar energy in Pennsylvania is to heat water. Many thousands of solar hot water heaters have been installed across the state. Solar hot water heating systems (solar thermal) are an excellent application of solar energy because hot water is needed year round, including the summer when we receive a lot of sunlight.
The sun truly is a powerful ally if you hark from the keystone state.
Our Solar Store in Pennsylvania is Tall Pines Farm Solar located in Kingsley, PA. From Scranton, PA to Binghamton, NY they can help you Go Solar!