2020 Pennsylvania Solar Congress comes to Indiana County, highlights energy progress
Blairsville, PA –Nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors will host the second annual Pennsylvania Solar Congress on Saturday, February 15, in Blairsville at the Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort & Conference Center.
This statewide conference attracts solar owners, supporters, and advocates from all over Pennsylvania. The day will include a series of presentations about solar technology, as well as the current solar landscape and future for solar energy in the commonwealth.
The event will highlight the renewable energy progress made in Indiana County, with Commissioner Sherene Hess providing the welcome remarks. Hess will highlight the region’s rich energy history and share what Indiana County and its institutions are doing to remain energy leaders as the market expands to accommodate interest in renewables like solar.
“There is increased interest in the sustainable provision of reliable, low-cost sources of energy around the region, the state, and the country,” said Hess. “Solar energy proves to be a promising addition to our region’s energy portfolio, and I’m excited to showcase that at the Pennsylvania Solar Congress.” Though solar initiatives in major cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh often dominate media coverage, rural and small-town communities are increasingly driving the growth in solar energy.
Indiana County is a prime example of this leadership. In 2019, the Indiana County Sustainable Economic Development Task Force partnered with Solar United Neighbors to run the Indiana County Solar Co-op, the group’s most successful solar co-op in the state, faring even better than co-ops in the more densely populated Pittsburgh.
The total number of solar installations in Indiana County grew by almost 70 percent in a single year due to the 2019 co-op. Nineteen county residents installed solar, and more than 140 learned about solar at free information sessions hosted by Solar United Neighbors. The co-op resulted in 210 kW of solar power installed, $385,340.00 invested in the regional economy, and 5.2 million lbs. of lifetime carbon offsets.
As a direct result of this influx of solar installations, Indiana Borough was able to streamline its permitting and zoning processes and was awarded the SolSmart Silver designation, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded program identifying communities that are “open for solar business.” “Being the first SolSmart designee in Western Pennsylvania supports solar development within Indiana Borough and demonstrates our commitment to make going solar simple,” said Indiana Borough Council President Peter Broad. “This benefits our residents by making us a more welcoming and sustainable community.”
The 2020 Pennsylvania Solar Congress will cover topics relevant to Western Pennsylvania’s residents, including farmers and rural homeowners. Speaker Ed Johnstonbaugh, energy savings and renewables educator at PennState Extension, will present a session for landowners curious about hosting large-scale solar arrays on their land.
Heaven Sensky of the Center for Coalfield Justice will present on her work with Solar United Neighbors to plan the first Greene County Solar Festival.
The Congress will mark the opening date of the second Indiana County Solar Co-op, building on the success of last year’s. Congress attendees can sign up at the event and attend a session to learn about solar energy and the co-op process.
Other sessions at the Congress will focus on electric vehicles, grassroots solar advocacy, and the future of solar and solar policy in Pennsylvania. “Whether you’re a solar homeowner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between, this event is for you!” said Henry McKay, Pennsylvania program director for Solar United Neighbors.
This event is free and open to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be provided.
Pennsylvanians interested in attending can learn more and register at: www.solarunitedneighbors.org/pasolarcongress
About Solar United Neighbors
Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that works in Pennsylvania and nationwide to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. Solar United Neighbors hosts co-ops, advocacy events, and education programs throughout Pennsylvania to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment, and advocate for fair solar policies.