Local companies receive Lodestar Award for solar energy leadership

May 21, 2021

Beaver and Washington Counties, PA – Yesterday evening the Pennsylvania Solar Center presented a number of regional companies and organizations with the prestigious Lodestar Award, a distinction given to Pennsylvania entities who are leading the way investing in clean and renewable solar energy. Acutran, Eaton, the Felician Sisters of North America, Greater Washington County Food Bank, Greenetech Manufacturing, Kretschmann Organic Farm, the PA Trolley Museum, and Washington County were proud to accept the award at a virtual awards ceremony.

Several speakers and highlights from projects were featured at the event, including state Senator Camera Bartolotta; John Vernacchia, Energy Transition Segment Director NA for Eaton; Don Kretschmann, Owner of Kretschmann Organic Farm; and Sister Mary Jean Sliwinski, Provincial Sustainability Coordinator for The Felician Sisters of North America.

“We are so pleased to present these organizations with the Lodestar Award, which recognizes them for their visionary leadership in choosing to invest in sustainable solar energy,” said Sharon Pillar, Executive Director of the PA Solar Center. “Solar energy is the way of the future, and we hope that their inspiring commitment and stewardship will be lauded and emulated across the community in the years to come.”

The word Lodestar historically refers to a star used in navigation, but with the PA Solar Center’s Lodestar Award, it connotes an entity that is leading the way in its sector for leveraging solar energy. With the award, the PA Solar Center recognizes these organization’s inspirational leadership.

More and more Pennsylvania businesses and organizations are choosing to go solar, and not just for sustainability reasons. Investments in renewable energy sources like solar and wind are also extremely cost-effective, paying for themselves relatively quickly and then achieving impressive cost savings down the road.

Entities that go solar wisely recognize that an investment in renewable energy is also an investment in their local communities. Pennsylvania renewable energy projects have created almost 10,000 jobs spanning the entire supply chain since 2004, from technicians and engineers to salespeople, construction workers, and manufacturers. And according to the Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project, increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from the current 0.5 percent goal to 10 percent by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually. The current 0.5 percent goal is set to flat-line May 31st, but if the state’s General Assembly would increase it, they would boost economic recovery at a crucial time.

Organizations interested in potentially switching to solar energy should be sure to check out PA Solar Center’s GET program (Galvanizing our Energy Transition), which provides technical assistance and financial guidance. Applications for the next round will be accepted later this year; those interested can learn more by visiting www.pasolarcenter.org or by sending an email to [email protected].


“At Eaton, we’re focused on accelerating a low-carbon future by applying our Everything as a Grid approach to simplify the integration of renewables—both for our operations and our customers,”  said John Vernacchia, Energy Transition Segment Director for Eaton. “We’re honored to receive this award recognizing our longtime commitment to sustainability; the nearly decade-old solar PV system at our Beaver plant—where we manufacture circuit breakers used in homes, buildings, industrial applications and solar projects throughout North America; as well as our ability to reduce carbon footprint and energy costs.”

“For our farm business, installing a solar array was just about the definition of a no-brainer.” – Don Kretschmann, Owner of Kretschmann Organic Farm.

“The Felician Sisters serve as prophetic witness to a world in need of healing – the poor and marginalized of our society as well as the very earth which sustains us.  Our solar project is a highly visible witness of our commitment to be responsible stewards of creation.”  – Sister Mary Christopher Moore, CSSF, Provincial Minister, Our Lady of Hope Province, The Felician Sisters of North America

“As Franciscan women, Felician Sisters are called to care for the environment. We have made a deliberate, moral choice to increase our use of renewable energy.” – Sister Mary Jean Sliwinski, Provincial Sustainability Coordinator, The Felician Sisters of North America

“Food banking is an industry that many cannot see as being an ‘innovative industry.’ But we love proving them wrong. As The FARM at Greater Washington County Food Bank expands operations and educational opportunities, we proudly detail how the solar array has allowed us to offset the cost of our electric utility over the year, and how we can place an emphasis on sustainability. It also allows more operational expenses to be allocated towards food purchase for those in Washington County and surrounding areas that we serve. Being recognized with the Lodestar Award is an honor, and we hope to continue to lead as an example in Western PA, showing that all kinds of industries can yield the benefits of going solar. Our solar program will be an asset to help our non-profit thrive in the years to come.” – Justin McAtee, Director of Marketing for the Greater Washington Food Bank

“We are honored to receive this Lodestar award for our Solar-Powered Streetcar Project!  This involved the installation of a 36 KW photovoltaic solar energy system at the Pennsylvania Trolley Museum (PTM) to use solar energy as part of its efforts to adequately display its collection of vintage electric railway vehicles and operate some of them on our two-mile demonstration railway.  The photovoltaic array was installed on the south-facing metal roof of our 28,000 square-foot Trolley Display Building during the summer and fall of 2009.   The benefits of this project have been to lower PTM’s electricity cost, allowing it to use those avoided costs for its public programming.  It also has created a wonderful educational opportunity to teach school children and visitors the importance of solar energy in electricity generation and we are “capturing the public’s imagination” by using modern solar photovoltaic technology to power early 20th century streetcars.” – Scott R. Becker, Executive Director/CEO, Pennsylvania Trolley Museum

About the Pennsylvania Solar Center 

The PA Solar Center is a project of our fiscal sponsor The New Sun Rising, a 501c3 organization. The Center offers technical assistance to non-profit organizations and businesses to help them go solar, as well as online resources for all solar stakeholders and education to decision makers and advocates about the benefits of robust solar policy. The PA Solar Center also provides an online directory of qualified solar developers, a map of notable solar installations, and listing of solar events happening across the state.

Up Next: Clean energy advocates say industry will slow if lawmakers fail to increase renewable energy goals