Harrisburg, PA – Pennsylvania could create over 100,000 jobs, decrease greenhouse gas emissions, and improve public health through increased reliance on solar energy, according to a plan developed by a statewide group of partners led by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The plan identifies 15 cost-effective strategies that could be implemented to achieve a target that 10 percent of the state’s electricity is produced from solar energy by 2030.
“States all around us and across the country have recognized that increasing solar energy can be a real economic development driver, in addition to providing tremendous benefits to public health and in addressing climate,” said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. “This plan demonstrates that we can pursue Pennsylvania’s solar future in a cost-effective manner that complements our position as an energy leader.”
Secretary McDonnell today unveiled Pennsylvania’s Solar Future, a plan of 15 recommended strategies to expand solar energy development statewide, at a public meeting hosted at Messiah College.
DEP and partners worked for more than a year to identify strategies involving both grid-scale systems and smaller, distributed systems (such as rooftop installations) that would increase solar energy development enough to provide 10 percent of electricity generation by 2030. They also detailed the associated benefits and required investments.
The main finding from the planning study is that, while installation of rooftop and other distributed systems can continue at the current pace, grid-scale development will need to accelerate. Seven strategies combine grid-scale and distributed solar energy systems. They include:
• Increasing the amount of electricity that utilities are required by state law to get from solar from .5 percent to 4-8 percent and, as Governor Wolf announced last year, requiring them to get this solar energy within Pennsylvania;
• Expanding loan products to residential and commercial projects to enable solar ownership;
• Providing loan guarantees to lower interest rates and incentivize solar deployment;
• Implementing a carbon pricing program and investing the proceeds in renewable energy and energy efﬁciency measures;
• Creating uniform solar project siting and land-use policies while encouraging conservation;
• Evaluating state tax policy for possible exemptions to encourage the development of distributed and grid-scale solar systems; and
• Helping solar project sponsors take full advantage of federal tax incentives or connect with investors who can.
Eight additional strategies tap either grid-scale or distributed systems.
Pennsylvania’s Solar Future predicts that approximately 60,000 to 100,000 new jobs will be created in rural, urban, and suburban areas. Additional economic development opportunities will arise from siting solar development to complement the working landscape and rural economy, such as already disturbed lands or in conjunction with grazing or pollinator-friendly perennials.
A modest increase in overall annual energy spending to build and interconnect solar energy systems (private generation investments and distribution system upgrades) may be required, and approximately 124 square miles of land (less than .5 percent of Pennsylvania's total land area) may be needed to increase grid solar sufﬁciently to generate 10 percent of electricity. Locations such as landﬁlls and abandoned mine land could also host grid scale solar installations.
Electricity generation emits nearly one-third of greenhouse gas emissions in Pennsylvania. Although solar energy is growing in Pennsylvania, the state currently generates less than 1 percent of our electricity from solar resources, while an increasing number of states have achieved 5 percent or 10 percent of their electricity from this clean, reliable, and renewable energy source.
“For Pennsylvania to achieve leadership in renewable energy generation from solar, we’ll require more intensive leadership, investment, and recognition of the long-range economic and environmental benefits. I’m proud of the leadership DEP and our partners are providing on this important aspect of our state’s energy mix,” said Secretary McDonnell.
The project partners are now working on a detailed list of action items for stakeholders and solar industry advocates to begin making progress on implementing these strategies.
The “Finding Pennsylvania’s Solar Future” planning project was funded by a $550,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office.
MEDIA CONTACT: Deb Klenotic, 717-783-9954