Solar Market Growing Too Fast In PA?

Pennsylvania recently reached the milestone of installing 100 megawatts (MW) of solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity. According to Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), this marks an increase from just 3  MW in only four years. The astronomical growth of the solar market has created as many as 6,700 jobs and more than 600 solar businesses, and is generating enough electricity to power over 12,600 homes annually.

However, the state currently faces a bit of dilemma when it comes to sustaining this growth. Investors in PV systems in Pennsylvania can recover their costs through the state’s performance-based incentive, which purchases solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) at the current market price. The problem is that the unanticipated growth of the solar industry is causing the market for SRECs to crash, making it more difficult to finance solar projects in Pennsylvania, and putting the nascent solar industry at risk.

image via Shutterstock

Pennsylvania’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard (AEPS) requires utilities in the state to generate 18 percent of their electricity from renewable resources by 2021, and contains a 0.5 percent set-aside for PV technology. Currently, the state’s solar energy capacity is outpacing its mandate. According to PennFuture CEO Jan Jarrett, Pennsylvania has already met its solar energy capacity goal for 2013, and is close to meeting its goal for 2014.

In order to maintain healthy market growth, state Rep. Chris Ross (R-Chester) has proposed the Solar Jobs Bill (HB 1580), which would increase Pennsylvania’s solar energy carve-out goals for the next three years. “This is a small fix that simply alters the way the solar share ramps up over time to create more demand right now,” said Jarrett. “Without this adjustment to the ramp-up, the solar market will grind to a halt for up to four years, forcing companies to leave for neighboring states where the regulatory environment for solar is more stable.”

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Lauren Craig is a writer and consultant living in Seattle, WA. She holds an M.S. in International Development from Tulane University, and is co-founder of Sustainable Systems Integrators, LLC., an employee-owned solar energy design and installation firm in New Orleans, LA. She is also certified in PV design and installation by the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP).