Solar Project to Produce Half of State Government’s Electricity

Electricians Bryan Driscoll and Zach Newton and consult a wiring schematic while installing solar panels at the 38-acre BNRG/Dirigo solar farm, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Oxford, Maine.

Electricians Bryan Driscoll and Zach Newton and consult a wiring schematic while installing solar panels at the 38-acre BNRG/Dirigo solar farm, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021, in Oxford, Maine. AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

Pennsylvania announced a new solar project that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions and lock in energy pricing for 15 years.

A new solar project in Pennsylvania will produce half of the electricity used by the state government by 2023, officials said Monday.

Gov. Tom Wolf, a Democrat, announced the clean energy project, which will build seven new solar arrays and create more than 400 construction jobs, calling it the largest solar commitment of any state or local government in the United States.

The project will help the state meet its broader goals to reduce energy consumption and increase reliance on renewable energy, officials said.

“This clean, environmentally friendly, solar energy will lower our annual carbon dioxide emissions statewide by 157,000 metric tons which is the equivalent of taking more than 34,000 cars off the road,” said Curt Topper, the secretary of Pennsylvania’s General Services Department.

Over the past decade, Pennsylvania has seen a boom in natural gas drilling and Wolf has made multiple attempts to impose additional taxes on that industry that have failed to win support from Republicans. Parts of the state are also located in Appalachia, with local economies historically tied to sectors like coal mining and steel production that have declined in recent years.

The state’s move with the solar project comes as President Biden and other Democrats are pushing for a more ambitious response to climate change by curbing carbon emissions and taking other steps.

When completed, the project is expected to deliver 361,000 megawatt-hours of electricity per year, and to supply energy across 16 state agencies.

The project will also offer financial benefits for the state by locking in a fixed price for energy costs for 15 years and insulating the state from future energy price increases, Topper said.

Pennsylvania signed a 15-year agreement to purchase the power through Constellation, a subsidiary of Exelon Corp. Lightsource BP will build, own and operate the solar arrays, which will be constructed on leased farmland in six counties across the state.

Pennsylvania will not have to pay upfront costs for the project as a result of the 15-year purchasing agreement, officials said.

Under the agreement, the solar panels will be disassembled and farmland returned back to landowners after 30 years, said Kevin Smith, chief executive officer of Lightsource BP.

Under Governor Wolf, Pennsylvania set a goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 26% by 2025 and by 80% by 2050, compared to 2005 levels. 

Patrick McDonnell, secretary of the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, said the project would help the state significantly reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.

“With over 85% of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions coming from energy production and use, pursuing clean energy and energy efficiency at the enterprise scale, as the state government solar procurement demonstrates, will make a big impact,” McDonnell said.

Andrea Noble is a staff correspondent with Route Fifty.

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