DOE grants rural Pennsylvania county $100,000 to go solar

Solar Power World
August 4, 2023

Three regional nonprofit organizations – RiverWise, the Pennsylvania Solar Center and New Sun Rising – have joined into a new partnership called Rural Innovation through Solar Empowerment (RISE) and will receive $100,000 from the U.S. Dept. of Energy to help Beaver County, Pennsylvania, organizations in Justice40 communities go solar. Administered through the DOE’s Energizing Rural Communities Program, the funds will help the partner team guide businesses, nonprofits and other non-residential organizations in making the transition to solar energy and in joining the new clean energy economy.

Justice40 communities are communities that have over the years been marginalized, underserved and overburdened by pollution, and to which the federal government has pledged to direct 40% of the overall benefits of certain federal investments. In Beaver County, these communities include Aliquippa, Beaver Falls, Ambridge, New Brighton, Monaca, Midland and Freedom.

“RiverWise is committed to ensuring that Beaver County’s Justice40 communities are benefitting from federal investments in the new energy economy, and we’re thrilled DOE has agreed to help us get there,” said Daniel Rossi-Keen, Executive Director at RiverWise, the team lead for the collaboration. “Our RISE partnership will serve as an incubator and pilot for expanding solar adoption in rural communities and developing a replicable process that we can spread across the state and the nation.”

“The Pennsylvania Solar Center is honored to have been chosen along with our partners to help Beaver County businesses and nonprofits navigate the path to going solar,” said Sharon Pillar, Founder and Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Solar Center. “There has never been a better time in our history to go solar, with the expansion and extension of the solar tax credit to 30% until 2032, as well as accelerated depreciation, USDA REAP grants, and savings from the solar power itself. Many clients from our various GET Solar technical assistance programs realize significant savings almost immediately. We greatly look forward to helping Beaver County’s Justice40 communities unlock the power of solar.”

“New Sun Rising and our RISE partnership pride ourselves on our longstanding dedication to environmental justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion principles, and sustainable community development,” said Scott Wolovich, Executive Director of New Sun Rising. “We’re thrilled and so grateful to have the opportunity to transition Beaver County into the new energy economy, create good-paying jobs, and lower energy prices for all energy consumers.”

The team seeks to democratize solar energy access in rural Beaver County — a county that is far behind in solar adoption with only 8.9 MW of installed solar capacity and only two projects generating greater than 50 kW. Driven by the Justice40 Initiative, the team’s aim is to foster clean energy adoption, enhance community resilience, encourage rural energy independence, and develop resources to guide rural solar innovation.

The team will ultimately leverage its broad network of existing community partners to pinpoint 25 prospective rural energy projects in rural Beaver County, offering them technical support on everything from feasibility to finance, with the ultimate goal of placing at least 10 of these projects out to bid. This process will yield a Solar Justice40 Toolkit for local stakeholders. They will also deploy an engaging storytelling and marketing campaign, showcasing the potential and benefits of rural solarization at five key sites including a museum, eco-park, coffee shop, municipal complex, and sports center. RISE will culminate in a public event intended to celebrate progress, envision the future, and detail tangible next steps for actualizing identified projects.

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