Solar Farms Power Local Government, Business in Pennyslvania
Updated: Jun 22
Down a gravel road close to what constitutes downtown Slovan in rural Washington County, Pa., roughly 3,500 solar panels stand in a field of green grass, their blue-hued faces tilted toward the sun.
The development, one of the largest solar farms in Western Pennsylvania, spans 4.5 acres and can power about 750 homes. It’s just a small part of a national trend infiltrating the Pennsylvania landscape.
A similar project is slated to occupy 12 acres of Hempfield, Westmoreland County. Almost 11,000 solar panels will be visible from Hunker-Waltz Mill Road, near Westinghouse Electric Co.
But the state still has a long way to go, with only three major solar farm projects powering roughly 575 homes and one business — Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Snyder’s-Lance in Hanover and Elizabethtown Solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA, a solar energy advocacy group.
Westmoreland and Allegheny counties have no big solar projects, according to a report by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. The report does not include individual panels on the rooftops of residential homes, said Nils Hagen-Frederiksen, press secretary for the PUC.
While there are few solar farm developments in the immediate area, Pennsylvania has a growing number of solar jobs.
Between 2017 and 2018, the number of jobs increased by 10%, accounting for almost 4,220 workers, according to Avery Palmer, communications director at The Solar Foundation, a nonprofit organization promoting solar and solar technology.
“Most of the jobs will be at companies that install solar on rooftops or commercial businesses,” Palmer said. “With that said, large utility-scale farms are a major job creator in other states, and developing these projects could help create even more solar jobs in Pennsylvania.”
An increasing number of local governments and businesses are looking to solar energy to reduce costs and meet clean energy goals, Palmer said.