From 2008 to 2013, there has been a boon in private solar energy usage in Pennsylvania, which has been ranked as the 10th leading state in solar since state rebates and federal tax breaks had been offered. But state-offered incentives are going away December 31, 2013 unless lawmakers renew legislation to keep the solar cash flowing. Over $100 million has been doled out for over 7,500 residential and 52,000 commercial projects, according to data from the Department of Environmental Protection. As of August 30, 2013, there is still over $2.3 million in rebates available for home or business owners through the PA Sunshine Program.
If the Sunshine Program expires, there are still SRECS, the Solar Renewable Energy Credits, that unfortunately for energy users, fluctuate like the stock market with even less return on investment. The SRECS have gone anywhere from $2.00 to a couple cents–and each size system gets a certain number of SRECS for each kilowatt hour produced from solar and pumped back into the grid. Customers typically see between 250 to 500 dollars in SREC returns each year. The ‘golden age’ of solar in Pennsylvania was about two years ago.
State accredited solar installers looking to sustain their jobs, and those looking to purchase solar arrays in the next few years, their hopes lie with State Representative Greg Vitali’s legislation, house bills 100 and 200. House bill 100 is largely concerned with climate change, and would spur demand for renewable energy by requiring energy companies to have at least 15 percent of output come from renewables or ‘green’ energy by 2023 (1.5 percent of that would have to be solar). House bill 200 addresses funding for the Pa. Sunshine Program by calling for $25 million in Act 13 drilling fees be used to fund the grant program. Impact fee monies from drillers was $202 million in 2012, and and $204 million in 2011, according to data from the Public Utility Commission.
(The data are for ‘traditional’ solar, or photovoltaic energy from solar panels–this does not include solar-thermal or other heating or solar technologies).
(In Southwestern Pennsylvania, most energy customers sign on with West Penn Power, a subsidiary of First Energy. Of the 6.1 million First Energy customers, 13,000 have used solar as a primary or supplementary source of energy. )