Pennsylvania Senate Considers Bipartisan Community Solar Legislation

State Sen. Mario Scavello has introduced legislation that would deliver a more than $1.8 billion boost to Pennsylvania’s economic recovery effort, benefiting farmers, small businesses, electric ratepayers, and municipalities throughout the commonwealth.

Senate Bill 472 would authorize the development of small-scale community solar projects and would enable more than 200 shovel-ready projects to quickly break ground, creating more than 12,000 total jobs in Pennsylvania.

The legislation was introduced with 20 cosponsors in the Senate and bipartisan support.

Community solar projects give residents and business owners the choice to subscribe to a local solar installation and earn a credit on their electric bill for their share of the power produced. The projects are small and often installed on underutilized parcels of working farmland, providing a steady new income source for farmers who have faced years of ongoing economic struggle.

The community solar model works alongside all existing forms of energy generation, utilizing private capital to improve grid resilience and reduce costs for all ratepayers. In fact, Pennsylvania’s electricity customers are expected to save over $30 million per year through community solar participation per Penn State’s analysis of the planned projects.

“Whether you are a business owner, landowner looking to install panels on your own land or a consumer, there is benefit for all,” Senator Scavello said. “Community solar opens up the market to new people who want energy choice while providing farmers with additional revenue that can help stabilize their income and weather the tough commodity markets.”

As Pennsylvanians struggle to recover from the COVID-19 crisis, community solar would provide new economic opportunities for farmers, consumers, and job seekers.

Leases for community solar projects have already been signed in 48 Pennsylvania counties as of September 2020, with additional projects planned in the last six months. According to Penn State’s analysis, community solar projects would produce a boon in construction jobs and additional tax revenue for county and local governments — all financed by private dollars.

While community solar is already in place in 20 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Pennsylvania utility rules currently prevent similar installations in the commonwealth.

“It’s time for Pennsylvania to take advantage of the economic revitalization that community solar can provide and modernize the state’s electric grid using private investment,” said Leslie Elder, Mid-Atlantic Director for Coalition for Community Solar Access. “We are excited to work with Senator Scavello on this critical economic stimulus tool and eager to bring it over the finish line this year so we can rejuvenate Pennsylvania’s economy and help get Pennsylvanians back to work.”

The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau strongly supports the passage of community solar legislation and lauded the introduction of SB 472.

“Community solar is an important economic opportunity for Pennsylvania’s farmers and their families. We urge members of the General Assembly to take swift action and pass SB 472 as soon as possible to begin providing financial relief to those individuals operating our commonwealth’s top industry,” said Darrin Youker, director of State Government Affairs for Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, which is a member of the PA Community Solar Economic Alliance.

SEIA also supports this legislation. The group issued the following statement from Scott Elias, senior manager of state affairs, Mid-Atlantic:

“We commend Senator Scavello for introducing SB 472, which will give Pennsylvania residents and business owners the choice to benefit from community solar projects. Community solar can expand solar accessibility and make sure all Pennsylvanians have the choice to experience the cost-saving benefits of solar energy without needing to install a solar system where they reside.

“Community solar can also unlock more than $2 billion in economic activity in Pennsylvania at a time when the Commonwealth needs more jobs and private investment. Solar can be a major economic driver in the Commonwealth, and this bill will provide an immediate boost to Pennsylvania’s economic recovery, benefiting farmers, renters, small businesses, homeowners, and job seekers across the Commonwealth.

“We look forward to engaging with the Pennsylvania legislature on this important bill.”

The community solar legislation introduced by Senator Scavello this session incorporates new provisions that reflect feedback from an array of stakeholders, including a requirement that solar developers bond for the cost of decommissioning these projects at the end of their lifetimes and new mechanisms to modernize grid infrastructure.

Community solar also enjoys broad, bipartisan public support.

Close to 80% of Pennsylvania voters want their legislators to pass community solar legislation, and more than 60 percent would subscribe to a local community solar project if given the chance, according to a Susquehanna Polling and Research survey conducted last fall.

SB 472 has been referred to the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure Committee for further consideration.


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