The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) released its final plan for expanding solar in the state Thursday after reviewing almost 140 public comments from stakeholders since it released its draft in July.
"Pennsylvania's Solar Future" aims to bring the state's solar powered generation up from less than 1% to 10% by 2030. The majority of the state's current generation comes from nuclear and natural gas, with just 4% coming from renewables.
To reach that goal, the DEP says the state will need to increase its approximately 300 MW to 11 GW of solar by 2030. The department lays out two scenarios for that growth, with grid-scale solar making up either 65% or 90% of solar generation, representing an approximate range of what the installation makeup could actually look like, David Althoff, DEP's director of energy programs, told Utility Dive.
The two scenarios laid out by Pennsylvania's DEP deliberate between cost of installment, land use and job development in the state — considerations consistent with cost/benefit analyses other states used to examine an expansion of renewable energy generation.
While installing rooftop solar is more expensive, the report notes, it will also create more jobs and require less land for development. DEP's plan is anticipated to create anywhere from 60,000 to 100,000 jobs, depending on the ratio of smaller systems to larger systems. Additionally, the plan notes increased costs would be minimal: either way the plan is expected to take up less than 1.5% of the state's energy budget.
Land use is another potential barrier the plan addresses. The state will need an estimated 124 square miles for solar panel development, less than 0.75% of the state's total land, and recommends use of landfills, abandoned mines or perennial habitats to minimize land waste.
To reach 10% solar powered generation, DEP proposed 15 strategies that address grid-scale solar development and integrating distributed resources.
The final report did not make any major changes from the draft in terms of strategy, according to Althoff. "No one was saying we were barking up the wrong tree," he said. Many of the comments were instead "forward-looking," asking "how can we animate this plan, move it forward?"