With Elizabethtown College’s large solar array as a backdrop, Gov. Tom Wolf on Monday called new state legislation designed to boost renewable solar energy a “game-changer.”
Last week, Wolf signed into law changes to the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, which since 2005 have required an increasing percentage of electricity used in Pennsylvania to be produced from alternative energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biofuels and methane captured from landfills.
By 2021, some 18 percent of all electricity will have to come from alternative energy sources. At least one-half a percent must be from solar. Currently, 13 percent of electricity in the state is from renewable sources.
However, Pennsylvania was one of two states with alternative-energy requirements that allowed renewable energy to be generated from out of state.
Currently, 26 percent of the solar renewable energy used in Pennsylvania is generated from outside the state’s borders.
That has resulted in a glut of solar power from out of state being offered for sale through credits. The new legislation still allows solar energy to be purchased from out of state but it cannot earn credits.
The hope is that the new in-state credit restriction will pump up the monetary value of credits for Pennsylvania-produced solar and, in turn, increase the incentive to build more solar projects and equipment in the state.
“We are making sure that the benefits of increased renewable jobs, a cleaner environment and a growing renewable economy will be felt in the Commonwealth,” Wolf said at Monday’s ceremonial signing of the bill while flanked by state and local officials, as well as environmental advocates.
The new law includes key provisions aimed at enhancing solar energy.
The governor and officials were dwarfed by Elizabethtown College’s rows of solar panels — largest solar array on any school campus in Pennsylvania.
Completed in 2016, the $6 million solar project produces 2.6 megawatts of electricity, enough to supply more than 20 percent of the college’s electrical needs.
The solar panels are owned by Radnor-based Community Energy and were built by Namaste Solar, a national firm, in collaboration with Advance Solar Industries, a New Holland firm.
Pennsylvania’s latest attempt to boost solar energy in the state comes amid a national debate over taxing cheaper-made solar panels.
The U.S. International Trade Commission is proposing tariffs on imported solar energy panels, mostly from China.
The move is supported by the domestic solar industry. But industries and other users of solar energy warn that it could drive up the cost of switching to renewable energy and, ultimately, place a drag on renewable energy efforts and eliminate solar jobs.
President Donald Trump must sign off on any decision.