Huge solar project for Philadelphia advances in City Council, despite concerns about location

Pat Loeb
November 17, 2018 - 10:00 pm
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- A Philadelphia City Council committee has advanced a bill that would make the city a leader in the effort to fight climate change. It would pave the way for construction of Pennsylvania's largest solar plant. The committee's one reservation is the location of the plant.

The bill authorizes a power purchase agreement under which Philadelphia would agree to buy 22 percent of its energy, for 20 years, from a solar plant to be built in Adams County. With the federal government retreating on carbon reduction, such local initiatives are filling the void, but Emily Schapira of the Philadelphia Energy Authority says this is one of the largest anywhere.

"This is a big array," Schapira said, "and this will put a lot of clean energy on to the grid and will help take Philadelphia towards our transition to 100 percent renewable electricity."

Council members applauded the lofty goal, but had concerns on the ground, specifically that the ground the array will be on is in Adams County, three hours away. As with all big projects, the developer filed a plan for a diverse workforce, prompting this from Councilman David Oh.

"It's just not that Adams County is 95.4 percent white, 2 percent black, 3.6 percent Hispanic and .02 percent Asian," Oh explained. "How are they going to meet their diversity goals?"

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The city's energy manager Adam Agalloco assured him much of the workforce would have to come from outside Adams County anyway.

"All those jobs are not currently existing within Adams County," Agalloco said. "Nobody in Adams County, nobody in Pennsylvania has ever built a 70-megawatt solar facility. That expertise has got to come from someplace."

He says Philadelphia has one of the leading solar tech training projects and he believes many graduates will get jobs. The bill passed unanimously, but sponsor Blondell Reynolds Brown says she'll be trying to lock in the workforce goals.

"By actually having the vendor sit face to face and reassuring us what they've put in writing," she said.