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Feds power Pennsylvania solar with $156M


(The Center Square) — Solar power in Pennsylvania just got another cash boost from the federal government.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has kicked $156 million to the Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority within its Solar for All grant program – part of the federal government’s $27 billion Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

In connection with the Philadelphia Green Capital Corporation, the authority will spend the money on residential solar, energy storage projects and home upgrades for poor households across Pennsylvania. The grant is part of $7 billion sent out nationally. Federal officials say the money will create jobs and save $8 billion in energy costs.

Gov. Josh Shapiro focused on the environmental benefits that solar energy would bring.

“Thanks to these investments from the Biden Administration, Pennsylvania will be able to build out reliable, sustainable, and affordable solar energy infrastructure, which will help low-income Pennsylvanians save money on their electric bills, while also reducing pollution in our communities,” Shapiro said in a press release. “My Administration is committed to taking real action to address climate change pollution, help Pennsylvania maintain its energy independence, and to cut costs for Pennsylvanians.”

Department of Environmental Protection Acting Secretary Jessica Shirley argued that more residential solar projects would fight climate pollution.

Making solar a significant power source in Pennsylvania, however, remains elusive. Less than 1% of net electricity generation in the commonwealth comes from solar energy.

Although tax credits drive solar’s growth – and may offer advantages to the industry as a result – policymakers remain generally agreeable to taking the money before it’s gone.

Various federal agencies have driven much of that official largesse. In March, the Department of Energy announced $90 million for a solar project in Clearfield County on former mine land, the largest in Pennsylvania.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has been a steady supplier of grants as well. A March disbursement sent $6 million to Pennsylvania for energy-efficiency upgrades and solar projects to Pennsylvania businesses, farms, and others. A January announcement detailed $5 million for dozens of green energy projects after $4 million for the same last November.

Residents have been supportive of solar energy, but prioritize low-cost energy above all else, according to a Commonwealth Foundation poll in March.

The growth of solar, too, prompts new questions about the future of the electric grid. More than half of the state’s proposed energy projects involve solar, but the costs to upkeep the energy grid for distribution, transmission, and other costs rely on non-solar energy.

During a June Senate hearing, one official from Duquesne Light warned that they support renewable energy, but opposed policies to shift more costs onto non-renewable power generators.