Energy. Environment. Economy.

Michele W. Berger

Michele W. Berger is a journalist who writes about science and the environment. She is currently the Science Editor for

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Wolf’s budget proposal plus renewed private investment could give solar a boost

n this undated photo provided by Tami and Randy Wilson, solar panels are installed on the Harrisburg, Pa. home of the Wilson's. When their utility announced a 30 to 40 percent rate increase, the Wilsons installed solar panels which provided their 1,500 square foot ranch home with all of its needs. Between the monthly utility savings, government subsidies, solar renewable energy certificates and carbon credits, the Wilson's expect to pay off their $58,000 solar system in six years.

Tami and Randy Wilson / AP Photo

In this undated photo, solar panels are installed on the Harrisburg, Pa. home of Tami and Randy Wilson.

Solar energy has taken a back seat to shale gas in Pennsylvania in recent years. But it’s getting renewed attention, thanks in part to a proposal from Governor Tom Wolf and new legislation aimed at funding the lapsed Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar, a rebate program for homeowners and small businesses. Investment from a large solar service provider could also bring more of this renewable energy, plus jobs, to southeastern Pennsylvania.

More than 33,000 Pennsylvania homes get their power from the sun, yet the state lags behind its neighbors in New York, New Jersey and Ohio, according to nonprofit The Solar Foundation. It doesn’t fare much better when it comes to jobs in this sector, offering just 2,800 compared to more than 7,000 in both New York and New Jersey.

State Rep. Greg Vitali (D-Delaware) said making this alternative energy more of a priority demands a two-fold approach: Relaunch Sunshine Solar and up the percentage of energy that companies like PECO must provide from renewable sources. “The Pennsylvania requirement is low relative to other states,” Vitali said. “Increasing our Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard would help.”

Vitali introduced House Bill 100 in February that would raise renewable energy requirements from 8 percent to 15 percent by 2023. He also authored House Bill 200, which puts $25 million a year toward Pennsylvania Sunshine Solar. Continue Reading

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