A Sneak Peek at Community Solar for Pennsylvania
By: Anthony Campisi
Pennsylvania is in line to become the next state to host community solar if the Pennsylvania General Assembly takes quick action this fall to pass legislation that enjoys broad, bipartisan support.
To preview what community solar would look like for the commonwealth, the Coalition for Community Solar Access released a new video that showcases projects in a nearby state and interviews farmers about why this form of local solar is good for them.
The video features a member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau named Paul Mason, whose property straddles both Maryland and Pennsylvania. He hopes to lease a small portion of his PA land for community solar, something he’s already doing across the border.
A fourth-generation farmer, Mason has been able to ensure a stable and reliable source of income from his community solar lease that he views as a smart “diversification strategy.” The lease for the community solar garden helps his dairy farm weather swings in commodity prices that impact farmers’ profitability and make it tough for them to plan.
“The beneficial element of community solar is that I get to be part of helping to produce renewable energy, as well as get a nice return from that renewable energy, and all I have to do is say, ‘Here, you can lease this land,” Mason explains in the video.
The video also illustrates how community solar is not invasive to the land. To install the solar panels, they simply drive posts into the ground allowing them to be removed at the conclusion of the lease, restoring the land to its original condition. In this way, farmers can host a community solar project for a finite period of time and eventually resume normal farming operations.
Advocates for community solar legislation (HB 531/SB 705) in Pennsylvania include groups such as the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, Coalition for Community Solar Access and many more. They say that community solar will open a new markets in Pennsylvania that will drive economic development and job creation, save consumers money on their electric bills, and provide stable income for farmers, many of whom have been hit hard in recent years.
“There ain’t a bit of farming you can’t do without the sun,” says third-generation farmer Teresa Stonesifer as she closes the video. “Why not farm the sun, and have that solar help the farm?”