PA DEP Unveils Strategies to Boost Use of Solar Power

Five main strategies, incorporating both decentralized approaches (e.g., solar panels on homes) and larger, utility-grid-scale development, were analyzed in the draft plan.

Unveiling 15 strategies to increase in-state solar power to 10 percent of electric generation by 2030, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is inviting public comments on the draft plan named "Finding Pennsylvania's Solar Future"

Comments may be submitted at https://www.ahs.dep.pa.gov/eComment/. The comment period opened July 7 and closes at 11:59 p.m. on Aug. 20. The final plan, which will take into consideration the comments received, will be published in December for informational use by policy makers, regulators, industry, investors, and consumers.

"Since the project began in 2017, the planning group has completed a modeling process that reflects the knowledge and perspectives of over 500 expert stakeholders statewide, provided through public meetings and working group discussions," said DEP Secretary Patrick McDonnell. "We're asking for public feedback so that all Pennsylvanians can have a part in the development of a plan that brings the economic, public health, and environmental benefits of solar energy to everyone."

The group set a target of 10 percent retail electric sales from in-state solar energy sources by 2030. This target was selected as a level that could be achievable but would also challenge the business-as-usual model and allow for the development a variety of strategies that could be pursued. To meet the goal, Pennsylvania must install about 11 gigawatts of solar energy, a significant increase from the roughly 300 megawatts currently installed in the state. Five main strategies, incorporating both decentralized approaches (e.g., solar panels on homes) and larger, utility-grid-scale development, were analyzed:

  • Increase the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard requirements for solar to 4-8 percent by 2030.
  • Provide customers access to capital, including provision of loan guarantees.
  • Adopt carbon pricing.
  • Create uniform policies for siting and land use.
  • Consider tax exemptions that encourage solar deployment and assist solar projects in finding project sponsors with tax equity.

Ten other strategies focusing on increasing either small, decentralized projects or grid-scale solar projects in Pennsylvania. And the draft plan examines the job creation potential of solar generation. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation of solar installer is projected to be the fastest growing job in the United States from 2016–2026 and is expected to increase more than 100 percent through 2026. The plan finds that achieving the 10 percent target would result in the addition of roughly 30,000 jobs at median wages of between $20 and $38 per hour.

For more information about the plan, visit www.dep.pa.gov/pasolarfuture.

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