The governor also stressed the need to increase Pennsylvania’s clean energy portfolio standards, saying higher standards will translate into even more jobs and economic development for the state.
"The solar industry has grown at a rapid pace despite the uncertain economy," commented Rendell. "Investors and developers have proven anxious and eager to invest in clean solar energy projects. Venture capitalists alone poured USD$1.4 billion into the industry last year. Pennsylvania could attract a larger share of that action if we just increased the solar share of our portfolio standards law."
He continued: "Pennsylvania is on pace to become one of the top five states this year for the amount of installed solar generation capacity we have, but that’s because of the standards we enacted six years ago. He added that that less than two years ago, Pennsylvania’s installed solar capacity was minimal. "Today, we have more than 39 megawatts of capacity installed, or enough to power 5,900 homes and that number increases daily.
"Unless we move now to increase our solar share – even to a modest 1.5 percent target – the types of projects we’re announcing today won’t even consider Pennsylvania. They’ll look elsewhere and take their jobs with them. And the 600 solar businesses now operating in Pennsylvania may move to another state where the sun shines brighter. Not acting on this issue now will only hurt our economy in the long-run."
The projects announced by the governor were funded through three sources. Twenty-four projects were funded with USD$13 million from Growing Greener II, eight projects were funded with USD$5 million in federal stimulus funds through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and eight projects in the Pittsburgh region were funded with USD$2.5 million through Duquesne Light Co. settlement funds.
Although the project types are not yet known, it has been said they will generate or save the equivalent of more than 10 billion kilowatt hours of electricity over their lifetimes, which is enough energy to power one million average homes in Pennsylvania for a year, and reduce carbon emissions by nearly nine million tons. "A few years ago, projects like these existed only in theory. Today, they are a reality," stated Rendell. "They benefit Pennsylvania’s consumers by generating and saving electricity, driving down utility rates, making additional projects more affordable and feasible, while stimulating the economy by creating manufacturing and employment opportunities, attracting private investments and making our environment cleaner."
The governor noted that the state investment provided through the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority (PEDA) will also leverage more than USD$211 million in private funds, generating a 10-to-1 return on investment. Since 2005, PEDA has invested more than USD$99 million in 201 projects, which have generated more than USD$883 million in matching funds.
When it was enacted in 2004, Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards act was said to be one of the nation’s most ambitious laws, but has since been surpassed by other states. The current law’s solar share requirement requires that one-half-of-one percent of the electricity Pennsylvanians purchase in 2021 comes from solar power. However, Delaware has a 3.5 percent requirement by 2025; Maryland will require that two percent of their electricity comes from solar by 2022; New Jersey will require four percent solar generation by 2021; and Illinois – the seventh-largest coal producer in the nation – has set a 1.5 percent goal for 2025.