The Lead

Pa. lawmakers propose grant program to fund solar projects at K-12 schools, colleges

By: - April 16, 2023 6:30 am
Solar power panels in field on a sunny autumn day (Getty Images).

(Getty Images).

Pennsylvania Democrats want to establish a solar program for Pennsylvania schools, hoping to reduce energy costs for K-12 districts and colleges and make sustainable investments.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would create a grant to fund solar energy assessments and help pay for installation and equipment for a solar energy system.

State Rep. Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Philadelphia, initially proposed the idea — dubbed the Solar for Schools Grant Program — in December, saying taxpayers and the climate would benefit from widespread adoption of solar on school buildings “through a targeted investment from the state government.”

“On-site solar can reduce energy costs and save Pennsylvania districts and state universities hundreds of thousands of dollars a year,” Fiedler wrote in a memo seeking legislative support.

Her legislation, House Bill 137, would allocate $500 million for the proposed program, which would be open to school districts, intermediate units, career and technical schools, schools for the deaf or blind, community colleges, the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, and the Pennsylvania College of Technology.

Successful applicants could use grant funds to purchase and install solar equipment, including prepayment in whole or in part of a solar lease or power purchase agreement, permit fees, energy storage, utility interconnection, and other costs approved by the Department of Community and Economic Development, which would manage the grant program.

In the upper chamber, Sens. Vincent Hughes, D-Philadelphia, and Carolyn Comitta, D-Chester, announced plans for companion legislation.

“Solar-generated electricity is already the cheapest electricity in history, and in states that support the transition to solar, school districts and public universities are already benefiting from adopting solar technology,” they wrote in a co-sponsorship memo. “With the savings, local governments can reduce the tax burden, schools can invest in more teachers, and universities can reduce tuition costs.”

Last year, a report released by Generation180, a clean energy nonprofit, showed that solar installments at K-12 schools in Pennsylvania nearly doubled from 2020-22.

In the report, Generation180 notes that using solar energy to power school buildings results in cost savings, energy independence, training for energy and agricultural careers, hands-on STEM education, and civic engagement.

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