Monday, March 22, 2021

Gov. Wolf Announces Major Commitment To Solar Energy To Supply Nearly 50% Of State Government's Electricity Needs

On March 22, Gov. Wolf announced the state will buy electricity produced from seven new solar energy facilities in six counties which will produce nearly 50 percent of the electricity used by state government.

Solar arrays will be built in seven locations in six counties: Columbia, Juniata, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and York. 

The projects will be located on 1,800 to 2,000 acres of farmland under long term leases. Lightsource bp, the developer of the project said there has been demand from farmers for these kinds of projects to help diversify their farm operations.

When completed, the total 191-megawatt project is expected to deliver 361,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, supplying 100 percent of electricity for 434 accounts across 16 state agencies, or about half the electricity used by state government. 

The solar projects will create 400-plus jobs and begin lowering carbon dioxide emissions statewide by 157,800 metric tons each year.

Part of the governor’s GreenGov initiative, Pennsylvania PULSE (Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy) – will go into operation on January 1, 2023. The project is the largest solar commitment by any government in the U.S. announced to date.

The Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SRECs, generated by the project will be retired upon purchase by the Commonwealth, ensuring that such SRECs cannot be used for compliance or voluntary purposes by any other entity, thereby preserving the existing SREC market. 

Lightsource bp will build, own and operate the solar arrays, creating hundreds of new construction jobs for Pennsylvanians and bringing long term economic benefits to local communities through increased tax revenues. The arrays will be constructed and operated to meet industry leading standards for low-environmental-impact solar siting and design.

“In issuing the GreenGov challenge, I charged state government with leading by example in demonstrating sustainable governance and lowering greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the risks of climate change in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Wolf said. “This included significantly reducing energy use and pursuing an ambitious goal of obtaining at least 40 percent of electricity from clean energy generated in state. I commend General Services for their GreenGov leadership in not only meeting this goal but exceeding it.

“Pennsylvania has been a national energy leader for more than one hundred years. As we continue to diversify our grid with clean renewable sources of energy, we want to maintain Pennsylvania’s leadership position and bring the associated economic, health and environmental benefits to all Pennsylvanians. As Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard – which has driven solar and renewable development for the past decade and a half – sunsets at the end of May, we need more of the innovative, resourceful thinking demonstrated in this project to keep the market for clean renewable energy strong in the commonwealth.”

“Pennsylvania PULSE reflects our commitment to making renewable energy the heart of DGS energy strategy,” said General Services Secretary Curt Topper. “The contract with Constellation provides us with long-term price protection and budget certainty, while the retail purchase model coordinated by the Penn State Facilities Engineering Institute is groundbreaking in enabling us to obtain an in-state solar energy supply for over 400 accounts with administrative and fiscal simplicity. We’re excited to have this new model in place as we work toward more clean energy use in the future.”

“DCNR is proud to co-chair Governor Wolf’s PA GreenGov Council and we congratulate DGS for laying the groundwork and providing the leadership that shaped today’s historic event,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “As the state’s conservation leader, we demonstrated our commitment to wise energy-use 40 years ago with the first installation of a solar array. We now have 17 such installations throughout the state; a vehicle fleet that steadily is moving toward electric conversion; and construction and maintenance guidelines that promote solid energy conservation. We truly are excited by this initiative and how it will benefit our commitment to the future.”

Clean energy industries added nearly 7,800 jobs in Pennsylvania in 2017-2019, for an 8.7 percent average job growth rate, significantly exceeding the average overall job growth in the state, according to the 2020 Pennsylvania Clean Energy Employment report.

Gov. Wolf’s Climate Change Executive Order in 2019 set a goal of lowering Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions 26 percent by 2025 and 80 percent by 2050 compared with 2005 levels. 

It re-established the Green Government Council, co-chaired by the Departments of General Services, Environmental Protection, and Conservation and Natural Resources.

The GreenGov Council is charged with developing strategies to ensure state government plays a lead role in greenhouse gas emissions reduction. 

Goals include obtaining at least 40 percent of electricity from in-state clean energy sources; reducing energy use at least 3 percent annually; replacing 25 percent of the state vehicle fleet with electric vehicles; and attaining energy high-performance standards in building construction, lease, or renovation. 

The Council recently released its second annual report, outlining progress towards these goals in 2020.

The 2020 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment documents that Pennsylvania’s average state temperature has climbed nearly 2° F since 1901, and the state average annual rainfall has increased about 10 percent, while extreme weather events have increased. 

It’s projected that by mid-century, every county will be 4.9° F hotter than in 2000, while average rainfall continues to increase 8-12 percent, unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced.

Reaction - Legislators

Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), Majority Chair of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, released this statement on the project--

“I have said repeatedly, I favor a diverse energy portfolio. I am not against any energy source.  What I am against is the failure to recognize what “clean” energy really entails.  There is a manufacturing process, which is totally ignored.  Further, the intermittent nature of wind and solar requires a duplicate generation system powered by coal, gas or nuclear.

“I have two combined cycle gas fired power plants in my district, which produce 825 MW of electricity each for a total of 1,650 MW of electricity day and night irrespective of the weather conditions.  

“The total acreage for both of these power plants is approximately 40 acres.  To produce that much intermittent solar power, about 12,000 acres of panels would be required.  

[Note: The project developer Lightsource bp said during the announcement about 1,800 to 2,000 acres of farmland would be used for these projects and there has been a demand from farmers for these projects to help diversity farm operations.]

“This project leaves many questions unanswered. How much is this deal costing Pennsylvania taxpayers for both the solar electricity and the solar credits?  

“Even if the Administration’s 50 percent reduction numbers were accurate and the ‘LaLa land’ approach were true, what happens at night?    

“What happens when the sun doesn’t shine? I guess we should just shut down the government buildings, which some would say would benefit the citizens of the Commonwealth. 

[Note: Sen. Yaw apparently lacks a fundamental understanding of the competitive electricity market that has been in place in Pennsylvania since 1996.

[These solar farms are not connected to individual state buildings.  They are supplying electricity to the grid.  A well-established system has been in place since the 1996 law that allows for the tracking and crediting of generation for electricity customers.

[That’s what enables our competitive electricity market to function where customers have been able to buy all or part of their electricity from a variety of competitive electricity suppliers for more than two decades.] 

“If this is such a great idea, why doesn’t the state provide 12,000 acres of DCNR land for use in this project?”

“There is a growing public awareness that so-called environmentally friendly energy sources like solar and wind are not so environmentally friendly.  

“Unfortunately, this administration is willing to promote child labor and a reliance on China to produce the materials needed for this so-called clean energy.  Read more here.

“As a Pennsylvanian, that is not something to be proud of.   Frankly, I am embarrassed.

“The Wolf Administration’s go-it-alone approach, and clear failure to engage the Legislature on any energy-related plan will not only cause more pain for Pennsylvania consumers as they struggle to pay their bills, but today’s solar announcement will unquestionably add more stress on the state’s agricultural ecosystem, while raising questions about zoning, decommissioning, recycling and reclamation.”

“Probably the biggest example of the ostrich approach is to be totally oblivious to the fact that there can be no clean energy without fossil fuels.   And, there can be no clean energy without mining.

“Pennsylvania is the second largest producer of natural gas in the United States.   Pennsylvania produces 20 percent of the natural gas used in the country.  That makes Pennsylvania one of the largest producers of natural gas in the world.   

“When are we going to stop apologizing for the abundant resources we have?   When are we going to grow up and act like a leader?   When are we going to have a leader who believes in Pennsylvania energy and Pennsylvania jobs?”


“Today Gov. Wolf demonstrated a visionary commitment to Pennsylvania by announcing the procurement of about 50 percent of our state’s energy from in-state solar sources – the equivalent of powering more than 25,000 homes," said Sharon Pillar, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Solar Center.  "This agreement will leverage the power of clean solar energy generated in the commonwealth to help our state recover economically from the pandemic, creating many clean energy jobs and saving taxpayer money in reduced energy costs.  We now urge the General Assembly to follow suit by increasing the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard for solar energy from the current 0.5 percent to 5.5 percent, which would result in the creation of approximately 50,000 more jobs and billions of dollars in economic investment – all without requiring financing from the state. Raising the goals will help businesses, non-profits, municipalities and homeowners reap the financial benefits from solar just as the state is doing.”

“The clean energy initiative unveiled this morning by Gov. Wolf is both historic and sorely needed as we work to combat climate change and reduce our carbon footprint in Pennsylvania,” said Rob Altenburg, PennFuture’s Senior Director for Energy and Climate. “This project—the largest commitment to solar energy by any government in the United States—will lower our carbon dioxide emissions statewide by 157,800 metric tons each year while creating at least 400 new jobs. This power purchase agreement will undoubtedly benefit Pennsylvania’s economy, environment and its residents by combating climate change, reducing pollution, and creating jobs while also insulating the Commonwealth from the rising costs of fossil fuels.”​​

“I commend Gov. Wolf for demonstrating leadership and ensuring that state government does its part to curb greenhouse gas emissions with this historic announcement," said Joseph Otis Monott, Esq. Executive Director and Chief Counsel of Clean Air Council.  "Two years ago, Executive Order 2019-01 represented a landmark moment, establishing Pennsylvania’s first-ever greenhouse gas reduction targets while also creating the ‘GreenGov Council’ to help executive agencies meet these goals.  Setting goals is laudable, and following through with concrete steps to achieve them is even better.  Pennsylvania has long lagged behind other states in utility-scale solar investment and development, making this announcement even more meaningful.  Pennsylvania PULSE will cut pollution, create hundreds of jobs, and bring millions of dollars in investment to local communities.  This is great news for the Commonwealth, and the Council looks forward to building on this progress as we transition to a clean energy future.”

(Photo: Example of a solar farm: 70-MW solar array in Franklin County with power purchase agreement with Penn State University.)


Frank Kummer: PA Plans To Generate 50% Of Government Building Energy Thru Solar

Don Hopey: Nearly Half Of PA Government Electricity To Come From Solar Power By 2023

Rachel McDevitt: Wolf Administration To Buy Half Of State Government’s Electricity From Solar

Cap-Star: PA Solar Energy Initiative To Supply 50% Of State Govt. Power By 2023

Bay Journal: PA Orders 7 Farmland Solar Sites, State Government To Be 50% Renewable By 2023

Related Articles:

-- Senators Laughlin, Haywood Announce Bipartisan Bill To Increase AEPS Solar Share To 5.5%

-- PA Township News: Solar Farming: The Next Big Thing? Rural Communities On The Front Lines Of Solar's Growth

-- Penn State's Solar Energy Partnership Recognized By National APPA Leadership In Educational Facilities

[Posted: March 22, 2021]  PA Environment Digest

No comments :

Post a Comment

Subscribe To Receive Updates:

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner