Lift shade on community solar power

From the Scranton Times-Tribune (AP)

The sun shines everywhere but state law casts shade on its ability to produce electricity just about everywhere. Now, bipartisan bills in both houses of the state Legislature would allow community solar energy projects to increase power production, reduce power costs and create thousands of renewable energy jobs.

Community solar projects differ from utility-scale projects, in which utilities build and operate large-scale solar farms and sell the electricity that they generate. Community projects are smaller. They enable individuals, businesses, nonprofits, civic groups and others to invest in solar projects in exchange for credits on their electricity bills. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the credits usually amount to 10% to 15% of the participant’s monthly power bill.

Republican state Sen. Rosemary Brown of Monroe County, who also represents part of Lackawanna County, sponsors a Senate community solar bill, saying that “creating a market for additional electricity options is a way to keep consumer costs down.”

That alone is a worthy goal. But Democratic Rep. Peter Schweyer of Lehigh County, sponsor of a similar House bill, said it also would extend solar power cost savings to people who can’t afford to install their own solar arrays who live where that is not possible.

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Workers install a solar system on a home in the Van Nuys neighborhood of Los Angeles. (Irfan Khan/Los Angeles Times/TNS)

“My district has a lot of apartment buildings and multi-tenant homes, and right now they’re being excluded from a renewable, affordable energy source just because they don’t have a single-family home in the suburbs,” he said.

Proponents pointed to a 2020 study of community solar power by researchers at Penn State University, who found that community solar would create about 12,000 jobs and generate $1.8 billion in direct and indirect economic activity, in addition to competitive pressure on power prices.

Legislative sponsors said that the 230 proposed community solar projects in 48 Pennsylvania counties collectively would reduce electricity costs by $30 million a year.

Legislators should see the light and make Pennsylvania the 23rd state to authorize community solar power projects, for the good of the environment and the economy.

— From the Scranton Times-Tribune (AP).