Penn State University Breaks Ground For 70-Megawatt, 500 Acre Solar Energy Facility In Franklin County
On September 6, Gov. Tom Wolf joined Penn State President Eric Barron and leaders from Lightsource BP in Franklin County for a groundbreaking ceremony for one the largest solar projects in Pennsylvania.
The 70-megawatt project to be built on 500 acres supports Pennsylvania’s goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025 and expand the use of solar energy throughout the Commonwealth.
More than 150,000 solar panels will be installed across three locations in Franklin County, on land leased from 7 farmland owners. Lightsource BP will finance, build, own, and operate the three solar farms, with Penn State purchasing all of the electricity generated under a 25-year power contract.
The project is estimated to save Penn State at least $14 million dollars over the contract term through solar’s low cost of electricity, while meeting 25 percent of the University’s state-wide electricity needs.
It will also help develop the Pennsylvania solar market and employ over 250 people during the construction period.
“When I came to office, I set out to build up our Commonwealth’s energy portfolio, to diversify it and incorporate more clean, renewable sources,” said Gov. Wolf. “My mission to expand alternate energy sources has increased value to Pennsylvania’s solar energy credits and bolstered the development of new solar projects across the Commonwealth. This resurgence of solar energy will help us make big strides in reducing our carbon footprint.”
Last year, the state’s Solar Energy Program helped fund 78 solar projects in 22 counties, including innovative projects such as the Bedford County Jail and Courthouse solar array, which produces 2.1 million kilowatt hours of electricity each year to power the jail, saving taxpayers around $5.5 million over the next 30 years, and the Solar Marriott Hotel in Lancaster, the first hotel chain powered entirely by solar.
A Sustainable Approach To Solar Farming
Sustainable concepts have been incorporated throughout the project’s development. The Nature Conservancy-PA was involved with selecting a low-impact site, avoiding areas of high biodiversity and high resiliency.
Penn State researchers are also involved with the selection of grasses, shrubs and plants for the site and its perimeter that will promote biodiversity and pollination.
The facility is being constructed in a regenerative fashion, meaning steps are being taken not only to minimize damage to the land but also to improve soil health and create wildlife habitat.
“Lightsource BP has a track record of building solar farms that enhance local biodiversity and agriculture, and we’re excited to partner with Penn State to further advance that model with our projects in Pennsylvania,” said Kevin Smith, Lightsource BP’s CEO of the Americas. “Utility-scale solar development can provide cost competitive solutions and spur rural revitalization while energizing cleaner and healthier communities.”
Penn State and Lightsource BP are also facilitating the use of the solar project site as a “living lab,” making it possible for students, faculty and community members to conduct research and learn about the solar industry firsthand, furthering Penn State’s land-grant mission to serve the broader community.
“The Penn State/Lightsource BP solar power purchase agreement is unique in the way it maximizes the potential for solar farming to have a positive impact on our climate and communities,” said Paul Shrivastava, chief sustainability officer and director of the Sustainability Institute at Penn State. “Proactive partnerships between local landowners and organizations from the public and private sector make this an ideal model to look to as Pennsylvania’s solar farming industry continues to grow.”
For more information on solar energy in Pennsylvania, visit DEP’s Pennsylvania’s Solar Future Plan webpage.
(Photo: Example of a Lightsource BP solar farm project.)
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[Posted: September 6, 2019]
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