NewEnergyNews: WILL PENNSYLVANIA BUILD ITS SOLAR POWER PLANT?

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    Wednesday, August 13, 2008

    WILL PENNSYLVANIA BUILD ITS SOLAR POWER PLANT?

    Carbon County in Pennsylvania is coal country. Does that make it hard country for New Energy? Apparently not. It’s all about the investment. Some far-sighted, ambitious folks take empty land and build an energy resource, a solar power plant. They make energy and sell it. Why not?

    Here’s the answer to why not: An investment like this is tenuous, a big undertaking with an intermittent output. It hinges on financing. Financing of solar – just like, on a much larger scale, the financing of coal projects – includes state and federal incentives and subsidies.

    Pennsylvania’s Act 213, put through under Governor Ed Rendell in 2004, requires utilities to obtain a portion of their electricity from New Energy sources and further specifies that a portion of that be from solar PV. Such mandates make investments in solar energy much more attractive because they assure sales at the grid for capital risked to capture solar energy and turn it into electricity.

    The Carbon County folks kicked off their solar power plant project August 7 with big fanfare. But don't get too excited too fast. This is exactly the kind of project that will be put on hold or cancelled all over the U.S. if Congress fails extend the Investment Tax Credits (ITCs) due to expire at the end of 2008. New Energy advocates have been trying for a year to get the Senate fossil fools mired in 1950s thinking to put through the tax credit extension.

    But why would the Senate want to give any incentive to a hard-working energy region like Carbon County, Pennsylvania? Just because it would allow the people there to take a giant step toward 21st century energy? Just because it would give them the chance to get into the fight against global climate change? Why would the U.S. Senate want to encourage things like that?

    PA State Representative Keith McCall, D-122: “I will do everything I can in Harrisburg to support projects like the solar farm to make sure we all have a cleaner, greener, more affordable energy future…”

    Note to Congress: If you've got nothing better to advocate than "more drilling, more drilling," there are people like Representative McCall who believe in the sun and the wind and will come after your job. And remember - they like McCall and solar energy in the coal country of Carbon County.


    PA's Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) has a "solar carve-out" that stimulates solar energy development. (click to enlarge)

    Solar plant slated for Carbon
    Mia Light, August 8, 2008 (Pottsville Republican-Herald)
    and
    State’s largest energy generation center earmarked for Carbon
    John J. Moser, August 11, 2008 (The Morning Call)

    WHO
    Rep. Keith McCall, D-122; John J. “Sonny” Kovatch, landowner; John Francis Curtis III, founder/“Chief Green Executive,” Green Energy Capital Partners

    WHAT
    The “Pennsylvania Solar Park” will be built in Nesquehoning on Kovatch’s land, financed by Green Energy Capital, other private investment and public monies. It will be PA’s largest and one of the biggest in the U.S.

    PA's panels will be mounted on a "tracker" (like this RayTracker) that maximizes direct sun. (click to enlarge)

    WHEN
    Construction is scheduled to begin in March 2009. Full operation is expected by mid-summer 2009.

    WHERE
    - The facility will be built on an undeveloped 100-acre tract of land adjacent to the Green Acres Industrial Park on the west side of Nesquehoning Borough near Lake Hauto in northeastern Pennsylvania just south of Scranton.
    - Green Energy Capital Partners is in Conshohocken, PA.

    WHY
    - The $65 million solar park will have a 10.6 megawatt capacity.
    - The facility will have 900+ ground mounted solar trackers, each with 48 solar panels. The trackers move the panels from east to west, following the sun across the sky and maximizing the direct sunlight on the panels.
    -There will be a website set up for the public to watch the tracking.
    - The site will also have a state-of-the-art center for controlling the facility. The center will also provide public education.
    - Green Energy Capital Partners plans to build additional solar facilities in both Pennsylvania and Ohio.
    - The parties have entered into a 30-year lease with 2 10-year options. Financing will be also based on the availability of federal and state incentives and tax credits.
    - The only current U.S. solar energy park larger is the 64-megawatt Nevada Solar One.

    click to enlarge

    QUOTES
    - Pennsylvania Rep. Keith McCall: “Carbon County has always been at the center of America's energy generation and innovation -- from the anthracite coal that still heats our homes and fuels many of our existing plants to this new solar farm that will generate clean, green energy while creating jobs and helping reduce our dependence on foreign energy sources…”
    - Landowner John "Sonny" Kovatch, talking about the property: “Just weeds and trees, which are green, but this energy project will be green, too…Once it’s up and running, the solar farm will be 100 percent pollution-free and help to reduce our country’s appetite for foreign oil.”
    - Curtis III, Green Energy Capital: “No one loses in this type of project. Everyone wins…”

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