Pennsylvania community solar legislation moves forward in House with promise of clean energy for renters

Solar panels in a community solar array surrounded by wildflowers that can help increase pollination

Community solar legislation is on the move in Pennsylvania after legislation cleared the House of Representatives last week by a 111-99 vote.

This innovative initiative will allow residents who rent their homes—among others—to benefit from the cost savings and environmental advantages of solar energy.

While the technology is growing in many communities, bill sponsor Allentown Democratic Rep. Peter Schweyer said areas like the one he represents – of which renters make up 65% – have row homes and historic districts where solar panels cannot be installed. 

Not taking advantage of available federal grants, Schweyer said during a recent committee hearing, would decrease the likelihood of the bill moving forward. An emphasis was placed on making sure there are zero negative impacts on non-solar ratepayers. 

“For years, we’ve been hung up on how to help the development of community solar,” he said during the floor vote Tuesday. “And many both inside our chamber and outside of our chamber have rightfully insisted that the costs of these developments should never be pushed onto other ratepayers.”

The Center Square, March 30

Breaking Down Barriers for Renters

Traditionally, renters have been excluded from the solar energy market due to the installation process typically requiring modifications to the roof. This new plan removes those barriers by focusing on community solar projects. Under this model, renters could subscribe to a solar farm and receive credits on their electricity bills for the power generated.

Federal Subsidies Paving the Way

The Pennsylvania plan leverages federal subsidies to make community solar accessible to renters. These subsidies will help offset the upfront costs associated with developing and maintaining solar farms, making solar energy a more attractive option for both renters and project developers.

Concerns and Considerations

While the plan represents a significant step forward, lawmakers have expressed concerns about the long-term costs of decommissioning solar panels once they reach the end of their lifespan. Addressing these concerns will be crucial for ensuring the sustainability of the program.

A Bright Future for Indiana

The success of Pennsylvania’s renter-friendly solar plan serves as a beacon of hope for states like Indiana that have yet to implement similar legislation. As Indiana grapples with its own energy future, exploring community solar initiatives that benefit all residents, regardless of their housing situation, should be a top priority.

By following Pennsylvania’s lead, Indiana could unlock the potential of solar energy and create a more equitable and sustainable energy landscape for all Hoosiers.