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Elaine Labalme
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DOE grant to PennFuture, western Pennsylvania coalition will grow solar market, green jobs

Western Pennsylvania plan only Keystone State application approved by DOE

(Pittsburgh – December 7, 2011) – Declaring “this is a great day for the Pittsburgh region’s economy and environment,” Heather Sage, vice president of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future (PennFuture), announced that the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has awarded PennFuture a grant of $315,697 to advance the use of solar power in western Pennsylvania. The grant, which was applied for by PennFuture on behalf of the organization and its Three Rivers Solar Source project, in conjunction with the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), CONNECT (Congress of Neighboring Communities), Solar Unified Network of Western Pennsylvania (SUNWPA), and the Green Building Alliance, will be used to create model laws to remove barriers to solar, and to create innovate funding tools to make solar accessible to families and small businesses.

“The competition for this grant was tough, and I believe that breadth of our coalition and our burgeoning solar industry helped us to get this Sunshot Rooftop Solar Challenge money,” said Sage. “The application process was rigorous with only 22 grants awarded nationwide, and our staff members – particularly Sharon Pillar and Evan Endres – were tireless in developing the coalition and the consensus to make our plan successful. We are pleased on behalf of PennFuture, of course, but even more delighted that western Pennsylvania’s energy economy and environment is getting such a shot in the arm.”

“I hope this grant – and the work it will enable us to carry out – will finally put to rest the canard that Pittsburgh weather can’t support solar,” said Pillar, program manager for PennFuture’s solar programs in western Pennsylvania. “The barriers we have faced here to having solar installed have had nothing to do with our weather. The barriers are legal, with municipal zoning and building codes ill-equipped to allow for solar installation, and financial, with a lack of sufficient funding mechanisms to allow families and businesses to pay for the installations. This grant – and our great coalition – will deal with these barriers head on, so we can build our solar market and the jobs that come with it.

“This grant also marks a real step forward in inter-agency and inter-municipality cooperation,” said Pillar. “Not only did our key coalition members see the need and take the leap of faith that we could work across borders and rivers, 23 other municipalities also signed on in support of the grant application. We are gratified by the support and trust these municipalities and partners are placing in PennFuture.”

Others attending and speaking at the press conference held today to announce the grant include:
• Jim Sloss, City of Pittsburgh;
• Jeaneen Zappa, Allegheny County;
• Rich Fitzgerald, Chief Executive-elect, Allegheny County;
• Patricia Schaefer, Chair of CONNECT and President of Edgewood Borough Council;
• Laura Mundell, SPC; and
• Ian Smith, Standard Solar, secretary of SUNWPA.

“This project will not only bring great jobs and expand our solar industry, it will also help put an end to Allegheny County’s air pollution problem, as the Heinz Endowments’ Breathe Project is working so hard to achieve,” said Sage. “This project proves, once again, that every environmental victory grows the economy.”

Details of the grant are on PennFuture’s website. A list of all the DOE awards is also online. 

The 23 municipalities in southwestern Pennsylvania participating in the initiative include Aspinwall, Baldwin Borough, Brentwood, Carnegie, Dormont, Etna, Forest Hills, Green Tree, McKees Rocks, Monroeville, Mount Oliver, O’Hara, Pittsburgh, Richland, Scott, Sharpsburg, Shaler, Stowe, Upper St. Clair, West Mifflin, and Wilkinsburg in Allegheny County and Midland and Monaca in Beaver County.

PennFuture is a statewide public interest membership organization, founded in 1998. PennFuture's activities include litigating cases before regulatory bodies and in local, state and federal courts, advocating and advancing legislative action on a state and federal level, public education and assisting citizens in public advocacy.

Working from the premise that “Every environmental victory grows the economy,” PennFuture has successfully advocated for landmark environmental legislation, including passage of the largest-ever environmental funding bond, public investment in green energy and energy savings programs, passage of the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act, adoption of the Clean Vehicles Program, and adoption of a regulation to protect Pennsylvania’s babies by restricting mercury pollution from coal-fired power plants. PennFuture has staff throughout the state, in Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Wilkes-Barre. The Philadelphia Inquirer called PennFuture the “state’s leading environmental advocacy organization,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette named the organization “one of the ten most influential groups on the issue of natural gas drilling,” and StateImpact Pennsylvania, an online collaboration of NPR stations across the state, called PennFuture “the commonwealth’s main environmental advocate.”


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