The Pennsylvania Solar Congress took place on Sunday, February 24th 2019 in Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania. CCJ staff attended the event to help support solar expansion and to learn more about the industry. The event was hosted by Solar United Neighbors at the Community Forge building, a public community space dedicated to create inclusive opportunities for community members. Solar United Neighbors is a tri-state non-profit organization that advocates for access to solar power for individuals. The organization describes themselves as “..a community of people building a new energy system with rooftop solar at the cornerstone. We help people go solar, join together, and fight for their energy rights.”The Pennsylvania chapter of Solar United Neighbors hosted the state-wide congress in February to discuss pressing issues in solar power policy, ways in which individuals can obtain solar power, and ways for attendees to get involved in grassroots organizing for solar growth going forward. The event also offered opportunities for attendees to view a showcase of some electric vehicles, and a presentation on Driving Electric. In addition, the event was sponsored by the solar installer EIS, and Tupelo Honey Teas, who provided tea and food prepared with solar energy.
The event was widely attended, with several people in the space having traveled from the eastern side of the state. Attendees learned the basics of how solar works on a home or small business, and the incentives that are available to Pennsylvanians . This included information about a 30% federal tax credit available before the end of 2019. According to Solar United Neighbors, homeowners can install solar panels for under $8,000 if they can benefit from a tax credit of that magnitude, and by participating in a solar co-op. The event also featured a panel of homeowners, all of whom have installed solar panels on their homes. The panel was able to answer a variety of questions from attendees, such as how solar panels impact roofs, and how cost savings compare across different heating systems and the square footage of homes. . Overall, a key theme of the Pennsylvania Solar Congress was to support PA House bill 531, addressing community solar access in Pennsylvania. Solar United Neighbors explains community solar on their website, saying that it “offers the benefit of solar to those who can’t, or prefer not to, install solar panels on their homes. These projects enable individuals, businesses, or organizations to purchase or lease a “share” in a community solar project. If you join a community solar project, you receive a credit on your electric bill each month for the energy produced by your share.” At this time, community solar is outlawed in the state of Pennsylvania. Currently, the organization is working to expand solar co-op opportunities into Washington and Greene counties. A solar co-op, in this case, is an organized group of buyers who pursue installation of solar panels in one order, at a bulk price.
To learn more about the work Solar United Neighbors is doing to expand solar power in our region, click here.
In addition, The Center for Coalfield Justice and Solar United Neighbors will be holding a Solar Festival in Greene County on September 28th, so please be sure to save the date!