PennFuture Blog

Our Perspectives on the Latest Issues

Solar-Powered PennFuture Walks the Walk, Doubles PV Capacity

In June 2003, PennFuture installed our first set of solar panels. The 3.84-kW system was made up of 32 panels, each rated at 120 watts. Our rooftop system generated about 65 megawatt hours of clean electricity since installation, helping us to avoid about 35 tons of carbon pollution since it was installed. 

As solar PV technology continues to improve, more modern panels provide greater output. We wanted to do even better—and we did.

This month, PennFuture replaced our system with a modern 6.56-kW installation. Our new panels are about twice the size of the old ones, generating 410 watts of power each—almost 4 times more power. That means that, on the same racks that held the old panels, we now have 16 new ones generating almost twice as much energy and lowering our electricity bill by more than $1,000 per year.

Better yet, the 32 panels removed from our roof are not headed to a landfill. Even after 19 years of service, they remain in great condition and will continue generating clean energy in other applications. They may still be in service many years from now—most solar panels are guaranteed to operate for 25 years, and even “worn out” panels can generate 80% or more of the electricity they did when they were new.  

Our work on solar

Solar panels today typically cost less than $3 per watt—less than half of what they did when our first system was installed 19 years ago—and other programs can make them even more affordable. 

Since PennFuture’s founding in 1998, we have been an outpost in Pennsylvania, fighting for programs to make solar more affordable and more accessible to all our citizens.

In 2004, we helped pass the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act that required utilities and electric generation companies to ensure a certain percentage of the power they sell comes from solar and other clean renewable energy. To do so, these companies buy “credits” from clean energy generators—with each credit representing a megawatt-hour of clean energy.

A few years later, we successfully defended Pennsylvania’s net metering rules from plans to weaken the program. Under net metering, utilities are required to purchase excess electricity from homes and businesses with small solar generation systems and pay the full retail value for that energy.  

We also supported programs like the recent extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC), which gives families and businesses a 30% tax credit for installing solar panels and otherwise improving efficiency.

There is more work to do

But, the fight isn’t over. The next challenge is to bring solar access to the 40–75% of Pennsylvanians that can’t readily buy solar panels on their own. Maybe they rent, live in multi-family housing, or simply have more immediate priorities for investing money.

For these homes and businesses, the answer might be Community Solar. Rather than build solar on their property, people can buy or lease a share of a larger centralized system. Energy produced by their share would appear as a credit on their electricity bill, much like it would if the panels were on their roof. Many other states already have this program. To get it in Pennsylvania, our Legislature needs to pass a new law such as HB 1555, currently before our legislature.

We couldn’t do any of this without your support! Please consider becoming a PennFuture member today.

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