What is the current state of solar power in PA?
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) recent Solar Future Plan report, “Pennsylvania is well situated to lead the country into the next age of energy development: clean, renewable solar photovoltaic (PV) energy.” The solar industry in the U.S. has seen an average annual growth rate of 54% over the last decade, and Pennsylvania in particular has gone from one megawatt (MW) produced from solar energy to over 300 MW since 2000. But solar still only produces less than 1% of Pennsylvania’s net electricity generation, and so energy groups are working on increasing that to 10% by 2030.
How much solar development is there?
Approximately 30% of energy being produced in Pennsylvania is being consumed out of state, making PA one of the largest exporters of electricity in the U.S. The majority of that energy comes from nuclear energy and natural gas. Yet renewable fuels only provide 4.1% of PA’s electricity generation, ranking it 41st in the country.
David Althoff, from the DEP’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Energy Assistance, said that “Pennsylvania’s solar projects are relatively small.” These include things like rooftop solar installations and panels for homes and businesses. But larger projects, such as 50 MW and 100 MW solar farms, don’t yet exist in Pennsylvania. In order to reach the 10% goal by 2030, they’ll need to.
According to the Solar Future Plan report, “As of December 31, 2017, Pennsylvania had a total of 318 MW of installed solar generation capacity from 16,770 solar systems spread across every county of the commonwealth.” This 0.3 GW of solar generation capacity is still a far cry from the additional 10 – 12 GW that would be needed over the next 12 years to reach the state’s 10% goal, and the report shows that more than 70% of that solar generation comes from systems with a capacity of less than 1 MW. So far, only one system exceeds 10 MW.
Is solar generation reducing energy prices?
The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Program has provided Pennsylvania with a $550,000 award in order to help the state reach its 10% solar generation goals. U.S. Department of Energy data states that the solar workforce increased to almost 374,000 employees in 2017, and that solar makes up 43% of the electric power generation workforce. The U.S. Bureau of Statistics projects solar installers to be the fastest growing job in the United States over the next 10 years, expecting an increase of more than 100% by 2026. There can be no doubt that solar power is and will continue to be a booming industry, but how will that affect Pennsylvania’s energy prices?
Solar energy, unlike other sources, has no fuel costs and can provide fixed energy prices over time. Pennsylvania’s Regional Transition Operator, PJM Interconnection LLC, also commissioned a study to examine the impact of energy prices if renewable energy, such as solar, increased over the next 15 years and found that this could lower overall prices.
The Solar Future Plan report also states that, for Pennsylvania, “solar economics are based on solar output and the baseline cost of electricity being offset. The relatively high electricity prices in urban regions may make solar economic despite lower insolation than sunnier states.” This means that an increase in solar energy production in the future could see cheaper electricity prices for consumers.
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While solar energy only makes up less than 1% of Pennsylvania’s net electricity generation at present, the goal to raise that to 10% by 2030 may result in both cleaner energy and cheaper electricity prices for the state.
And remember, you can always keep up to date with the latest news and prices at PA Energy Ratings, and visit https://www.paenergyratings.com/electricity-rates to learn more and compare plans in Pennsylvania right now.