Make Community Solar Legal in Pennsylvania

**by Richard W. Jones

This OpEd appeared in the Centre Daily Times on Oct. 8, 2023

I have friends and acquaintances who have solar panels on the roofs of their houses. They love it. Their electric bills are zero or almost that. Their houses increase in value. It’s a great deal.

But not everyone can do what they’ve done. What if you live in an apartment building? What if you rent a house? What if you’re a homeowner who can’t afford the upfront cost to put solar panels on your roof? If you are in one of those situations in Pennsylvania right now, you are largely shut off from the benefits of solar energy.

That’s why the state legislature needs to authorize—make legal—community solar for Pennsylvania. Community solar can be a way for everyone to have a role in solar generation of electricity. Forty-four states already have community solar projects going on. Pennsylvania is not among them.

Here’s how community solar works: An investor builds a solar array in a field somewhere. You subscribe to that meaning you pay the owner of the solar array—sometimes called a solar farm–a fee. Now you have a share of the electricity produced by that solar farm. Then the sun does its work and generates electricity. The solar farm owner sells this electricity to the power grid. Since you are a subscriber to the solar farm you are entitled to a share of the proceeds from that sale.

Typically, that shows up as a credit on your monthly electric bill. Also typically, you save money in this process since the credit on your electric bill is larger than the fee you pay to belong to community solar. So, your electric bill goes down if you participate in community solar by anywhere from 5 to 15 percent, according to Energy Sage.

It helps your bottom line, and it aids the environment by cleaning up the power grid.

A report from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences found that if community solar was authorized for Pennsylvania, it would “green light” 230 projects in 48 counties and save participating subscribers about $30 million per year.

So often, environmental initiatives get swallowed by political partisanship. But community solar doesn’t seem to fit that narrative. There are two bills now before the Pennsylvania state legislature that would authorize community solar here. State Senate Bill 550 is one of them and its prime sponsor is a Republican from Monroe County. The community solar bill in the State House of Representatives is HB 1467.

This is not a radical, untested theory. The worth of community solar has been proven and accepted in almost every state. It’s time for Pennsylvania to join the movement.

If you agree, write to your state legislators and urge them to support the bills that would legalize community solar projects in our state.

Depending on where you live in Centre County your state senator will be either Chris Dush or Wayne Langerholc, Jr. And your representative in the State House of Representatives will be either Kerry Benninghoff, Scott Conklin, or Paul Takac. Type in your search bar: “find my legislator PA” and you will see a link to discover which lawmakers serve your municipality.


** Richard W. Jones is a volunteer with the State College chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

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