Kenney to move forward on new solar power plan

To reverse an old adage — if you buy it, they will build it.

Pennsylvania could soon be expanding its solar power industry significantly, as Mayor Jim Kenney is inking a contract for the city of Philadelphia to begin sourcing 22 percent of its electrical needs from solar power plants. And the demand expected from the new Power Purchase Agreement in Philadelphia is projected to lead to the construction of the state’s largest photovoltaic or solar power facility.

“Philadelphia wants to lead by example in procuring renewable energy, which will reduce regional carbon emissions to help meet our climate goals and create regional job growth in the renewable energy sector,” Kenney said in a statement after the original legislation was introduced at Philly City Council.

Kenney is scheduled to sign the Power Purchase Agreement on Tuesday, and his office said gears are already in motion for a massive new solar-panel power plant in Adams County in Central Pa., near Gettysburg.

The projected 70-megawatt facility, seven times larger than the next-largest solar panel facility in the commonwealth, is expected to be built by developer Community Energy’s new project Adams Solar LLC.

The agreement also agrees for the city of Philadelphia to purchase the energy that it will need for municipal properties at a fixed price for the next 20 years — “hedging against future price spikes, which is likely to save the City money in the long run,” Kenney’s office said in a press release.

Built into the project is an “Economic Opportunity Plan” — which includes plans to hold job fairs for sub-contractors and workforce in Adams County and Philadelphia, and to incorporate women, minority and disabled-person-owned businesses in the project the city said. The project is also intended to connect with solar job training programs in Philadelphia, like the Philadelphia Energy Authority’s high school solar training program.

The project ultimately goes toward goals in Philadelphia’s Municipal Energy Master Plan for Philly to acquire 100 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2030.

“Moving forward in a tangible matter with this goal symbolizes how we grow towards a greener and more sustainable Philadelphia,” City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown said in a statement after introducing the legislation in Philadelphia City Council in November.

The solar power plan is the latest major green step planned in Philadelphia.

Billionaire philanthropist Michael Bloomberg’s organization recently pledged $2.5 million to Philadelphia by 2020 to assist the city in cutting carbon emissions 28 percent by 2025.

The funds are currently set to go towards energy efficiency projects in residential and office buildings, increasing the generation and use of renewable energy, supporting alternative transportation methods and transition 6,000 municipal vehicles to electric and working with SEPTA to convert its fleet to environmentally friendly power sources.

Meanwhile, SEPTA recently issued a Request for Proposals to begin sourcing 10 to 20 percent of their electrical needs from renewable energy sources, which they hope could also stimulate demand in the renewable energy industry.

But other nations have already made significant progress in this field. Of the world’s five largest photovoltaic facilities, three are in China, and the other two are in India. China’s Tengger Desert Solar Park is the world’s largest, with an estimated peak output of 1,547 megawatts.

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