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  • Writer's picturePA Community Solar Economic Alliance

Community Solar Can Expand the Growing Solar Job Market in Pennsylvania

Updated: Sep 17, 2020

By: Anthony Campisi

More than 150 years ago, Pennsylvania cemented its place as an energy leader as host to the nation’s first commercial oil well. Since then, a variety of energy sources have emerged to help power the commonwealth’s economy, including the growth of clean energy. A new report issued by the commonwealth finds that clean energy technologies, including solar generation, are powerful job creators. A deep dive into employment across Pennsylvania’s energy sector showed that jobs in the clean energy industry grew 8.7% between 2017 and 2019, outperforming other states and bucking a slight national decline. Solar energy jobs comprised the largest portion of jobs in the “clean energy generation” segment. The report called out clean energy as a leading job creator for Pennsylvania, and officials involved with its release noted that this sector showed promise for helping the commonwealth rebuild after the economic fallout from COVID-19.  Advocates for community solar legislation – including a coalition of industry, agriculture and non-profits say that’s exactly what this new program could do: play a key role in Pennsylvania’s economic recovery and create new high-paying jobs to keep the clean energy industry as a leading employer in the state. In fact, new analysis by the PA Community Solar Economic Alliance finds that over 200 community solar projects in 41 counties across Pennsylvania are ready to break ground if legislation to enable the program sees action in 2020. The projects would serve an estimated 250,000 homes and businesses, including customers in every utility territory across the commonwealth. Representative Aaron Kaufer (R-Luzerne County) and Senator Mario Scavello (R-Monroe County), have introduced legislation (House Bill 531 and Senate Bill 705) in their respective chambers to create a new community solar program in the commonwealth that, according to advocates, will generate significant economic stimulus and job creation at no cost to taxpayers. “Even before this pandemic began taking its toll on Pennsylvania and the nation, Representative Kaufer and Senator Scavello saw the tremendous economic potential of community solar for our commonwealth, and the stakes are even higher now” said Leslie Elder, Mid-Atlantic Director for the Coalition for Community Solar Access (CCSA). “The community solar project analysis in conjunction with the 2020 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment Report makes it clear that solar energy in our state has been and can continue to be a powerful job creator, but we need remove the current barriers to community solar here in the Keystone State.”

And it appears the legislation is gaining traction. HB 531 was the subject of a House Consumer Affairs Committee meeting on September 1, at which CCSA, Community Energy Inc. and the Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum (PennCEF) testified in support of the legislation. The Coalition for Community Solar Access is a trade association representing companies and non-profits who are already investing in community solar projects across the commonwealth. It counts 30 companies among those poised to invest in Pennsylvania, including Summit Ridge Energy, a national leader in community solar and battery storage assets. In Illinois, where community solar legislation passed in 2016, Summit Ridge is expected to launch a fleet of community solar projects across the state and estimates creating close to 1,200 jobs. Additionally, they expect the collective systems to generate over $7 million dollars in tax revenues for the Illinois counties in which they are planned. Minnesota passed community solar legislation in 2013, and since then, they have experienced a significant economic boon. In fact, community solar employed over 4,000 workers in Minnesota in 2018, including many living wage construction jobs. Community solar projects also pay about $5 million per year to landowners for leases and royalties and over the next 25 years farmers are expected to receive $182 million in payments. “Community solar can be the next chapter in the story about strengthening Pennsylvania’s solar industry,” said Steve Raeder, Founder and CEO of Summit Ridge Energy. “Representative Kaufer and Senator Scavello are to be commended for their leadership on moving legislation that will help to grow Pennsylvania’s economy and bring investment to communities across the commonwealth. We urge the General Assembly to pass HB 531 and SB 705 so that we and others can bring to fruition this opportunity for the Keystone State.”

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