Solar Energy in Pennsylvania: What’s the Best Way to Get Started?

Pennsylvania is among the top states for solar energy development, having the 2nd-largest solar photovoltaic (PV) installation rate in the country. The state boasts over 712,000 kW of installed capacity, which accounts for around 11% of the total US solar market. Its high solar energy potential is mainly due to its temperate climate and large flat roofs, which make it easy for homeowners to set up solar installations.

Varies By Region

The cost of renewable energy in Pennsylvania has come down significantly since 2011, which is the year that the last state-mandated surcharge on power generation was lifted. As a result, the cost of solar photovoltaic systems (PV S) has declined by 33% in the state, while the cost of solar thermal systems (ST S) has declined by 20%. The installation and maintenance costs of PV S are also among the lowest in the country. However, not all regions of the state are equally favorable towards solar power. For instance, homeowners in the mountainous regions of PA face higher electricity costs and more expensive rooftop insulation.


In 2011, Pennsylvania passed a law that enabled homeowners to benefit financially from their solar power systems. The state’s Renewable Energy Source (RES) Incentive Program offers solar energy developers financial assistance to help lower their costs and make their projects more viable. According to data from the Pennsylvania Department of Energy, 66% of homeowners in the state are behind on their electric bills, with 27% being moderately or severely delinquent. The majority of those who are delaying or ignoring their bills are living in rural areas and inner-city neighborhoods where conventional energy sources are unreliable or nonexistent. For those who are unable to pay their bills, the risk of foreclosure is a reality. The situation prompted the state legislature to consider special legislation that would allow municipalities and other legal entities to negotiate discounted electricity rates with electricity providers.

Ready To Go Solar?

To be eligible for a PV S system in Pennsylvania, a home or commercial property must have a fixed roof that is at least 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. The roof cannot include any covering that interferes with the ability to expose the solar cells to the sun’s rays. The homeowner or property owner must also have an electric meter that is capable of measuring the amount of energy consumed by the system. The residence or business must be located in an area that is designated “Solar I” or “Solar II” by the Energy Commission.

Solar I and II

The Energy Commission administers the RES Incentive Program and designates potential solar energy zones based on the cost of electricity and the presence of solar resources. According to data from the Energy Commission, there are currently 77 zones available for solar development in Pennsylvania, spanning from solar free zones in the northeast to more concentrated zones in the southwest.

Solar III And IV

Similar to Solar I and II, the Energy Commission designates “Solar III” and “Solar IV” zones for solar development. However, the cost of electricity and the presence of solar resources in these areas make the project less profitable for solar energy developers. As a result, only residential projects in these areas are eligible for financial assistance through the RES Incentive Program. But, this is a growing market, too. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of residential solar projects in the state increased by 44%. To learn more, visit

Federal Subsidies For Solar Energy

Since 2010, the United States government has been providing unprecedented support for solar power and related industries, chiefly through tax credits and subsidies. As a result, the cost of solar energy has come down significantly, making it more affordable for average homeowners. The federal government also offers manufacturing and installation subsidies for solar energy systems, as well as rebates for purchasing solar-compatible appliances. Due to the federal government’s involvement and incentive programs, it is possible for homeowners to get solar power systems for free or nearly free. Some homeowners have gone even further and used their solar power systems to generate profit for their businesses.

Government As A Partner In Solar Energy

In December 2016, the United States federal government and its agencies enacted the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The act authorizes the creation of a Solar Energy Program that will provide loans and grants to nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, and other approved entities. Homeowners with federal tax liens can also apply for loan and grant financing through a partnership with federal and state agencies, such as Solarize PA.

Why Should You Look Into Solar Energy In Pennsylvania?

With the cost of solar energy continuing to decline and installation and maintenance costs decreasing, more and more homeowners are looking to use solar power to generate electricity for all their needs. Pennsylvania is a leader in this regard, with over 712,000 kW of installed solar capacity and an increasing number of green properties seeking to reduce their energy consumption and offset the cost of electricity.

Where Do I Start?

If you’re interested in exploring solar power as a potential energy source for your home or business, the first thing you should do is consult with a local electric provider and analyze your current electric bills. From there, you can determine whether or not solar is a viable option for you. If it is, you can proceed to find a reputable solar company in your area that can provide you with an installation package that suits your needs. Once you’ve made the decision to go solar, you’ll need to determine how much financial assistance you might need to secure the solar system and how you can begin saving money on your electric bills. Many states and localities offer tax incentives to homeowners who install solar power systems, so be sure to seek out those options as well.

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