Lawmakers in the General Assembly should act on community solar legislation.
By ROBERT S. BAIR JUNE 16, 2023
A solar farm was constructed in a former parking lot at Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pennsylvania. BRIAN LAWDERMILK/NASCAR VIA GETTY IMAGES
I have spent my adult life in Pennsylvania as a 36-year member of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and last June I was fortunate enough to be elected president of the Pennsylvania Building & Construction Trades Council. I know the value of hard work and I fight every day to make sure that our Building Trades members are heard and represented in the halls of government. I champion our unions, support and foster apprenticeships and encourage young people to get involved in the trades. I do this because I care about Pennsylvania and its workers.
In this state, we value hard work and hard workers. We can always do more to provide them with additional opportunities, but an opportunity we are leaving on the table in Pennsylvania is a measured and concise solar energy expansion. The introduction of community solar to this state would create countless jobs across the state – jobs that pay family-sustaining wages for years to come.
Pending legislation in Harrisburg would allow solar panels to be placed on available commercial rooftops, brownfield sites and undeveloped property to allow the energy to be connected to the grid. Pennsylvanians would then have the opportunity to opt in to community solar projects.
For a lot of Pennsylvanians, solar energy is out of reach due to the cost of installation and the space necessary to house the solar panels. This would allow all of us to opt in to the use of cost-efficient solar energy with a targeted approach that benefits workers, their families and their communities.
Data backs this up: Pennsylvania State University conducted a study on the potential impact of community solar and the results were impressive. Overall, the construction phase of these facilities in Pennsylvania would support more than 11,000 jobs and generate $1.8 billion in economic activity. This includes income directly from the projects as well as the additional economic activity that occurs as these dollars move through the economy, benefiting everyone.
But the benefits don’t stop after the sites are constructed: Once the projects begin operating, they will continue to support 520 jobs and generate $83.3 million in economic activity. This extra financial support and job creation opportunity would be enormous for Pennsylvania, as other states are taking advantage of these programs already.