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Pa. Government to Get Half of Power Needs from Solar

Half of Pennsylvania government’s electricity needs will be met with solar energy by next year under a recently announced new energy initiative.

The state will be the first in the country to commit to getting 50 percent of its energy from solar power under the Pennsylvania Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy (PA PULSE), using 10 new solar farms that will be built across the state.

The state’s Department of General Services has reached a contract with power provider Constellation for a 15-year, fixed-rate power purchase agreement. The solar farms will be built by Lightsource bp in six counties – Columbia, Juniata, Crawford, Northumberland, Snyder, and York.

The project will supply 361,000 megawatt-hours of electricity annually to 16 state agencies, which will reduce the state’s carbon footprint by more than 157,000 tons of carbon dioxide annually. That is equivalent to emissions from 34,000 gas-powered cars or more than 27,000 homes’ electric use.

 “The contracted rate for solar electricity is very competitive relative to historic rates for traditional grid power. The contracted rate for this project is fixed over the 15-year term, providing long-term price protection and budget certainty for a commodity that has been historically volatile,” a Lightsource bp release states. Lightsource will sell the solar power to supplier Constellation, which in turn will be provide the contracted amount to the state.

The first three solar farms have already been launched, and the rest should come online later this year.

A release from Gov. Josh Shapiro’s office said the PULSE PA initiative is part of his energy plan, which will establish the state’s own carbon cap program and update the state’s renewable energy goals with ambitious new standards.

The Pennsylvania Climate Emissions Reduction Act (PACER), which was announced in March, will replace Pennsylvania’s controversial efforts to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Under the PACER program, Pennsylvania will determine its own limit on pollution from power plant emissions and set its own price for credits for those emissions that plant operators will have to buy. Under PACER, 70% of the revenue will be used to provide rebates to state residents on their electric bills, more than any other state in the U.S. Part of the remaining 30% will go to help lower bills for low-income residents and for energy efficiency projects.

Shapiro’s proposed Pennsylvania Reliable Energy Sustainability Standard (PRESS) updates the state’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS), which required an increasing percentage of the state’s electricity provided to consumers to be generated from renewable sources. The state has met the 18% requirement, and it has not been updated since 2004. PRESS adds nuclear and other forms of clean energy and will require the state to get 50% of its electricity from a range of clean energy sources by 2035.

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