Friday, February 19, 2021

PA Solar Center Recognizes 10 Solar Energy Leaders In Central PA

Pennsylvania Solar Center presented 10 businesses, organizations, and municipalities in Central Pennsylvania with the first Lodestar Awards to recognize entities who are leading the way in investing in clean and renewable solar energy at a virtual event on February 11.

The honorees include: BAI Group; Burkholder’s Market; Centre County Board of Commissioners; Envinity; Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery; Bellefonte KOA Campground; Millheim Borough Council; Organic Climbing; Owens Family Sheep Farm; and Sun Directed.

Several speakers were featured at the event, including--

-- House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Mifflin); 

-- Dr. Paul Shrivastava, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Penn State University; 

-- Barb Christ, co-owner of Happy Valley Winery; and 

-- Caroline Owens, co-owner of Owens Farm and member of the American Solar Grazing Association. 

“We are so pleased to present these organizations with the Lodestar Award, which recognizes them for their visionary leadership in choosing to invest in sustainable solar energy,” said Sharon Pillar, Executive Director of the PA Solar Center. “Solar energy is the way of the future, and we hope that their inspiring commitment and stewardship will be lauded and emulated across the community in the years to come.” 

Click Here to watch a video of the virtual program.  The program includes short videos on each of the award winners.

Here are comments from several of the award winners.

BAI Group, LLC

“We are honored to receive the Lodestar award which recognizes BAI Group’s efforts towards advancing solar energy in Pennsylvania and surrounding states,” said Sel Edor, Market Director of Renewables at BAI Group, LLC. “Our focus is on finding creative development and financing solutions for solar projects that would traditionally be complex to execute or fund. It is affirming that our work is being recognized by the Pennsylvania Solar Center. We look forward to assisting more organizations with solar and contributing to the clean energy transition.” 

Bellefonte KOA Campground

"At the Bellefonte KOA Campground we believe the outdoors not only creates a happier healthier future, but also brings families together. As such we believe it is our mission to create and encourage a greener future. We thank everyone who is taking this journey with us," said Casey Dillon, owner of Bellefonte KOA Campground

Burkholder’s Market

“We flipped the switch in June of 2019 on our 600 KW solar carport system,” said Russ Burkholder of Burkholder’s Market. “This system is expected to reduce our energy bill by about 70% per year. So far, the system has exceeded performance guarantees. Our decision to look at solar stemmed from a desire to strengthen the Market by reducing dramatically one of our largest expenses, energy costs. It’s always a great thing when environmentally friendly investments make economical and financial sense for small businesses.” 

Marketing for Envinity

"As an employee-owned small company, we are personally invested in delivering efficient and affordable solar panels for people in our community,” said Candice Bradley, Manager of Business Development and Marketing for Envinity. “We pride ourselves on creating residential and commercial projects that are environmentally responsible, less costly to operate, healthier, and more enjoyable for their occupants. We're thrilled with the community rallying behind those beliefs and standing beside us for over 15 years for a more sustainable tomorrow.” 

Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery

“At Happy Valley Vineyard and Winery, we are committed to sustainability for many of our practices, so it was a natural next step to invest in solar power.  Solar power is a way to ensure the future of our ecosystem and a means of stabilizing the cost of our energy needs,” said Barb Christ, owner of Happy Valley Winery

Organic Climbing

“Our Solar Sewn workshop has enabled us economic security in sketchy times by promising us a guaranteed low electric rate for our overall bill of materials, built on a reclaimed coal mine,” said Josh Helke, owner of Organic Climbing. “We are proud to help influence the next wave of sustainable (economically and environmentally) manufacturing in Central PA, and beyond.” 

Owens Family Sheep Farm

“Susquehanna University brought our sheep onto their three-megawatt solar array as an environmentally friendly way to control vegetation around the panels,” said Caroline Owens, owner of Owens Farm of Sunbury and member of American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA). “As the flock grazes, they also improve soil health, sequester carbon, support pollinator habitat, and build community goodwill while avoiding risk of equipment damage from mowing activities. It is truly a win-win for all parties.” 

Sun Directed

"Converting sunshine into power, solar energy has provided power to our home for over twelve years and we are excited to provide solar power to many homes and businesses across the region. From large carports to small off grid cabins, we love to help our customers with their energy goals,” said Heather Shadow, co-owner of Sun Directed

Susquehanna University

“This [array] is a major step forward in the university's commitment to implementing earth-friendly initiatives that are at the heart of responsible living in our interdependent world," said Jonathan D. Green, president of Susquehanna University.

The word Lodestar historically refers to a star used in navigation, but with the PA Solar Center’s Lodestar Award, it connotes an entity that is leading the way in its sector for leveraging solar energy. 

With the award, the PA Solar Center recognizes these organization’s inspirational leadership. 

More and more Pennsylvania businesses and organizations are choosing to go solar, and not just for sustainability reasons. Investments in renewable energy sources like solar and wind are also extremely cost-effective, paying for themselves relatively quickly and then achieving impressive cost savings down the road. 

Entities that go solar wisely recognize that an investment in renewable energy is also an investment in their local communities. 

Pennsylvania renewable energy projects have created almost 10,000 jobs spanning the entire supply chain, from technicians and engineers to salespeople, construction workers, and manufacturers. 

And according to the Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project, increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from the current 0.5 percent goal to 10 percent by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually. 

The current 0.5 percent goal is set to flat-line in May, but if the state’s General Assembly would increase it, they would boost economic recovery at a crucial time. 

Organizations interested in potentially switching to solar energy should be sure to check out PA Solar Center’s GET program (Galvanizing our Energy Transition), which provides technical assistance and financial guidance. Applications for the fourth round will be accepted until March 1.  Questions should be directed to:   

For more information on transitioning to solar energy, visit the Pennsylvania Solar Center website. 

(Photo: Sheep grazing under the solar energy array at Susquehanna University, Snyder County.)


Anya Litvak: Solar Advocates Appeal To Businesses That Now Is Uniquely Good Time To Look At Solar Energy

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[Posted: February 19, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

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