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Celebrating Solar in Philadelphia

When we think of solar-friendly cities, traditionally the first ones that come to mind might be in California or the Southwest. But it’s time to add other solar hotspots to the list: places like Philadelphia, one of the fastest growing solar markets in the nation.

SolSmart was at Philadelphia City Hall on August 17 for the “Solar Day for a Sustainable Philadelphia,” a celebratory event organized by the Philadelphia Energy Authority (PEA) and the Solar Training Network. With over 125 people in the audience, we presented the SolSmart Gold plaque to the city and recognized its accomplishments in opening up its local solar energy market.

The Gold designation “places Philadelphia in the elite tier of communities across the nation,” said Zach Greene, SolSmart Program Director at The Solar Foundation. “It means Philadelphia’s open for solar business.”

As one of the first participants in the SolSmart program, Philadelphia has engaged in multiple, innovative efforts to encourage solar development across the city. Through the PEA Solarize Philly group buying program, more than 3,500 households so far have signed up to express interest in going solar. The city also created a streamlined process to offer more solar permits over the counter.

We were also proud to recognize graduates of the city’s third cohort for Find Your Power, which trains high school students for solar and clean energy careers. The future of the solar industry will depend on a well-trained, high-quality workforce, and these graduates are well positioned to enter an industry that’s growing by leaps and bounds.

“By clearing local barriers, creating a pro-solar environment, and reducing costs, more Philly residents will go solar and more Philly residents will get good-paying jobs,” said Chris Walker, Senior Program Manager at The Solar Foundation.

More action is on the way. Christine Knapp, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, told the audience that a new analysis is underway on the potential for rooftop solar development within Philadelphia. The city has also released a request for proposal seeking a contractor to provide 20-30% of municipal energy needs through solar or other renewables.

The result of all these efforts is not only that more homes and businesses have the opportunity to go solar, but also a boost in local job opportunities and economic growth. The Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census found that Philadelphia solar jobs increased 24% over a single year, for a total of 2,319 solar jobs in the metro area as of 2017.

And while there’s already a lot to celebrate, it’s clear this is only the beginning. The state of Pennsylvania now obtains only 0.23% of its electricity from solar. The potential for growth, in Philadelphia and countless other municipalities across the nation, is almost limitless.