Nonprofit finds Greensburg, Jeannette areas could save $19M over 25 years by switching to solar

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review/TribLive
March 27, 2024

A Pittsburgh nonprofit mapped the solar power potential of about 40 institutional buildings — schools, fire halls and government offices — in the Greensburg and Jeannette areas, finding the owners could save about $770,000 in one year on their electric bills and $19.3 million in 25 years if they switch to solar.

Three volunteers from the Pennsylvania Solar Center mapped the buildings in a virtual session using special computer software. They found that 7.2 megawatts of solar power could be generated by solar panels on the roofs, said Amelia Eggan, program manager for the Solar Center. The estimated savings of the solar panel projects over existing electric utilities was based on a 3% annual increase in electric utility bills.

“This will help us build a relationship with community leaders and (let us) tell them what we found” about the solar potential in their area, said Sharon Pillar, executive director of the nonprofit Pennsylvania Solar Center.

The Greensburg area was selected for a mapping project because city officials expressed interest in learning more about the area’s solar power potential, Eggan said.

Parts of the New Kensington and Harrison areas were mapped last month by Solar­Corps, a group of about 70 volunteers who are involved in the solar industry or are advocates for solar power, Pillar said. About 1,000 properties, including ones in Beaver Falls and New Kensington-­Harrison areas, were mapped since the fall, Pillar said.

“We’ll calculate the amount of solar energy that could be produced at a building” using an online software program called PV Watts, Pillar said. They also will get an estimate on the cost of doing nothing in terms of solar power, she added.

Building owners will receive an estimate of the cost of installing solar panels and the potential cost savings on their electric bills. The return on their investment will be based on a 3% annual increase in the cost of their power usage. That savings will be calculated from one to 25 years, Pillar said.

“We’ll give them (the owners) information on the GET Solar program, the free grants and technical assistance” that are available, Pillar said. For those interested, the Solar Center will do a higher level of assessment and distribute a request for bids to solar power installers. They will continue to provide assistance throughout the process, Pillar said.

“It is way of determining really good solar potential” of the buildings that are mapped, Eggan said.