House Hearing: $2 Billion In Community Solar Projects, Family Farms Waiting For Passage Of Bipartisan Legislation That Costs Taxpayers Nothing

On September 1, a House Consumer Affairs Committee hearing was told $2 billion of investment is waiting for the passage of bipartisan legislation establishing a community solar energy program that could also help save family farms, all at no cost to taxpayers.

A recent study also identified at least 220 shovel-ready solar projects in 41 counties ready to break ground, if the legislation is passed and signed into law.  Read more here.

The legislation-- House Bill 531 (Kaufer-R-Luzerne) and a companion bill Senate Bill 705 (Scavello-R-Monroe) authorizes community solar projects allowing neighbors, businesses, farms, and other community members to directly participate in and receive the benefits from a solar project connected to their local electric distribution company’s grid.

“We heard a lot today about how community solar projects could benefit Pennsylvania farms, our economy and our electric customers,” said Rep. Brad Roae (R-Crawford), Majority Chair of the Committee. “A lot of people could benefit – from new jobs, increased incomes and lower energy bills – if this policy proposal moves forward.”

“This is a case where there is strength in numbers,” Rep. Roae added. “When people work together and pool their resources, they often can accomplish more together than they ever could while they were apart.”

Leslie Elder, Mid-Atlantic Director, Coalition for Community Solar Access, told the Committee Pennsylvania could see the creation of 3,159 full-time jobs paying an average family sustaining wage of $33 per hour and $1.06 billion in economic benefit if the bipartisan community solar bill is passed.

“Many of the new solar jobs created by House Bill 531 will be in non-urban communities, where the community solar facilities will be built and maintained,” said Elder.  “We have an opportunity to reshape rural Pennsylvania with a new labor force. There are numerous opportunities to develop a pipeline of innovative and skilled labor in non-urban communities with solar technologies.”

She added at a time when the Coronavirus Pandemic has been devastating to Pennsylvania workers, community solar can create needed jobs to the state [at no cost to taxpayers.]

“Community solar presents an enormous opportunity for farmers in Pennsylvania to obtain year-round and dependable income to improve the economics of their farms by leasing a small portion of their land for community solar development,” Elder said.

“CCSA and our members are committed to working hand in hand with the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau and individual farmers in developing land leasing best practices before program implementation.

“We are committed to building long standing relationships, anchored in trust with individual farmers, the Farm Bureau, and local communities to execute contracts and leases that serve the farmer and the community’s unique needs.

“Additionally, the industry is committed to innovation and technology to make solar panels more efficient, agro-photovoltaic uses and technologies readily available, and development techniques to preserve the health of the land and ensure dual usage,” Elder said.

Chad Forcey, Executive Director, Pennsylvania Conservative Energy Forum, said, “As conservatives, we believe in open markets, less red tape, and greater economic freedom. House Bill 531 accomplishes these goals in the spirit of free market capitalism, which we cherish.

“If this legislation is not passed in 2020, we will keep the community solar market closed, and homegrown solar generation will remain out of reach for many Pennsylvanians.

“So, one way to make solar far more practical is to cut the red tape, and open the door for new investors. We understand that upwards of $2 billion in new investments await the passage of this bill in 2020.”

He too underlined the importance of House Bill 531 in helping to provide assistance to Pennsylvania’s family farms, pointing to testimony by the PA Farm Bureau which says--

“We can see agriculture playing a key role in the development of community solar projects.... Community solar would allow multiple landowners to pay for, and receive credit from, a group project. We believe that Pennsylvania should open the door for community solar energy generation and give landowners the ability to participate in these projects if they so choose. We are calling on lawmakers to pass either House Bill 531 or Senate Bill 705 so that more solar energy projects can get off the ground in Pennsylvania.”

Lauren Brunsdale, Associate Developer, Community Energy, said without House Bill 531 [or Senate Bill 705] “Pennsylvanian’s are not able to participate in the community solar market without legislative action to open the market and allow access for community solar.

“House Bill 531 removes the regulatory red tape by enabling Pennsylvanian’s to participate in the community solar market through subscriptions to projects built in Pennsylvania.

“This new market will create the stability the industry needs to make investments in Pennsylvania now – bringing more jobs in every county and greater economic stability to hard working farming communities.

“Solar produces more jobs per unit of electricity than any other source of generation—by a wide margin.

“Solar jobs are good paying jobs including electricians, surveyors, design and civil engineering, real estate, geotechnical, material procurement, distribution, construction, operation and maintenance.

“Solar works throughout the state from Erie, to Pittsburgh, to Scranton, to Philadelphia – there is immense solar electric generation potential in Pennsylvania with no county left out.”

Written Testimony

Additional written testimony was provided to the Committee by--

-- Henry McKay, Pennsylvania program director, Solar United Neighbors;

-- Susan Murawski, president, Presque Isle Audubon Society;

-- Tony Clifford, chief development officer, Standard Solar;

-- Amy Sobel, Audubon Pennsylvania;

-- Sarah Wochos, director of policy and business development, Borrego Solar Systems;

-- Darrin Youker, director of state government affairs, PFB; and

-- Liz Robinson, executive director, Philadelphia Solar Energy Association.

-- Sierra Club,

-- Arcadia,

-- BlueWave Solar,

-- a constituent farmer,

-- Clean Energy Co,

-- Clearway Energy Group,

-- Energy Association of Pennsylvania,

-- Edison Electric Institute,

-- TurningPoint Energy,

-- Office of Consumer Advocate, and

-- AC Power.

Click Here to watch the hearing online.

House Bill 531 has been in the Committee since it was introduced in February 2019 and Senate Bill 705 has been in the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee since June of 2019 with no action.

Community solar legislation was originally introduced in the House and Senate in 2018.  Read more here.

Rep. Brad Roae (R-Crawford) serves as Majority Chair of the Committee and can be contacted by calling 717-787-2353 or sending email to:   Rep. Robert Matzie (D-Beaver) serves as Minority Chair and can be contacted by calling 717-787-4444 or sending email to:


Rachel McDevitt: Community Solar Proposal Getting Bipartisan Support At Hearing

Rep. Roae: Community Solar Could Save Family Farms House Committee Hears

EPCAMR Receives Grant To Explore Solar Energy On Coal Lands

20 MW Solar Energy Project Planned For Snyder County Coal Ash Basin Site

Related Articles:

-- New Analysis: Over 200 Shovel-Ready Community Solar Projects Await Action On Bipartisan Legislation

Related Articles This Week:

-- Country View Family Farms Installing Over 8,100 Solar Panels At 4 PA Farms

-- Sustainable Business Entrepreneur Judy Wicks Will Headline Sept. 15 Virtual Program At NE Sustainable Energy and Education Development Support Meeting

-- House Environmental Committee Meets Sept. 16 On Recycling Solar Panels; But E-Waste Law Is Broken [PaEN]

-- Senate Environmental Committee Reports Out Bills Taking Away DEP’s Authority To Adopt A Carbon Pollution Reduction Program For Power Plants

-- Senate Appropriations Meets Sept. 8 To Move Bills Taking Away DEP’s Authority For Carbon Pollution Reduction Programs, Kill Regulations By Doing Nothing

-- PA Environmental Council: Carbon Capture, Utilization, Storage In PA: A Story Map

[Posted: Sept. 2, 2020]


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