Pennsylvania Government Announces Major Commitment to Solar Energy

On Monday, Governor Tom Wolf announced a major initiative that aims to make Pennsylvania a cleaner energy state, calling it the “largest solar commitment by any government in the U.S. announced to date.” As part of the GreenGov initiative, which Governor Wolf created in 2019, the newly announced plan seeks to produce nearly 50% of the state government’s electricity from solar power. He is calling this new project the Pennsylvania PULSE (Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy) and said it will go into operation January 1, 2023.

The project is estimated to create over 400 jobs and begin lowering carbon dioxide emissions statewide by 157,800 metric tons each year. According to the Pennsylvania Governor, this is the equivalent of the emissions from nearly 27,000 homes or is equivalent to taking 34,000 cars off the roads.

The plan consists of building seven new solar arrays on approximately 2,000 acres of farmland that spreads across six counties: Columbia, Juniata, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and York. It will add 191 megawatts of solar energy in the state, which analysts say will nearly double how much is currently produced statewide.

The solar arrays will be built and owned by Lightsource BP, a global company with an office in Philadelphia. Pennsylvania entered into a 15-year agreement to purchase the power through Constellation, an Exelon company. State officials said the average it will pay for power under the agreement is about 5 cents per kilowatt hour, which is cheaper than what the state has paid for the traditional supply for the past 10 years.

Governor Wolf’s announcement cited the 2020 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment documents which found that Pennsylvania’s average state temperature has increased by nearly 2° F since 1901. Additionally, the state average annual rainfall has increased by about 10% and extreme weather events also continue to increase. Scientists project that by 2050, every county in Pennsylvania will be 4.9° F hotter than in 2000, while average rainfall will continue to increase by 8-12% due to climate change.

While many environmental organizations voiced strong support for the green initiative, there has been some negative response. Republican state Senator Gene Yaw, chairman of the Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee, called into question the state’s commitment to solar energy, criticizing its reliability, admonishing Governor Wolf for not engaging the legislature, and also citing that CO2 emissions from fossil fuel power generation in Pennsylvania have been reduced by 38% since 2002 (though this increase is due greatly to switching from coal to natural gas).

As the nation’s second-highest natural gas-producing state, Pennsylvania certainly has a responsibility to reduce its carbon footprint. The new initiative provides a basis and a plan to achieve a cleaner state for the future.

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