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Pa. Reaches Solar Capacity Milestone

Pennsylvania’s solar energy capacity recently reached the 1 gigawatt (GW) milestone, which is enough to power a city the size of Pittsburgh, or nearly 140,000 homes.

The growth in the installed solar capacity came with the use of the state’s two-decades-old Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards (AEPS) program, which requires that electric distribution companies and electric generation suppliers include a specific percentage of electricity from alternative resources in the generation that they sell to consumers, including certain thresholds for solar. The state was one of the first in the nation to create such a program, which was updated in 2021 with bigger goals.

“This is an important milestone to help cement Pennsylvania’s position as an energy leader and accelerate innovation across a diverse set of energy technologies,” a press release announcing the milestone stated.

In addition to the 1 GW (1,000 megawatts) now operating, the state has an additional 500 MW currently under construction and is expected to be online later this year. That would be enough energy to power the residential populations of Altoona, Harrisburg, Scranton, and West Chester.

The press release noted that the number of new solar projects in Pennsylvania has grown by 160 percent in the past five years, and the total capacity of new systems going into operation has doubled. Two-thirds of the growth is in small rooftop systems in homes and businesses, while the development of larger utility-scale solar systems that connect directly to the transmission grid has also been increasing.

While 1 GW of solar energy may sound like a lot, it is just a tiny fraction of the 162.8 GW of installed capacity nationwide. The top state for solar capacity, unsurprisingly, is sunny California with 39.7 MW, followed by Texas with 17.2 MW. New York is the only state in the northeast in the top 10, at 4.2 MW.

With the cost of solar systems steadily decreasing, and the federal and state governments providing incentives for adoption, the amount of solar energy produced in Pennsylvania is expected to continue into the future.

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