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Pennsylvania Governor's Mansion Gets Solar

Environmental Protection Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty today unveiled a new 2.8-kilowatt solar power system on the south roof of the Governor’s Residence on Front Street in Harrisburg. The 16-panel photovoltaic system will power the site with clean electricity and ensure continuity of government services by providing at least 22 hours of backup power to critical infrastructure in the event of a blackout.

“This first-of-its-kind project highlights the importance of investing in renewable energy technology as a tool to ensure a reliable energy supply if the power grid ever goes down,” Secretary McGinty said. “The project also showcases Pennsylvania’s national leadership on energy issues. Diversifying our energy resources is a key piece of ensuring against economic and security vulnerabilities.”

Installation of renewable energy systems provides another dimension to ensure that police and fire stations, hospitals and emergency centers, and government buildings can offer consistent and reliable services during blackouts. These innovative systems also provide another source of environmentally beneficial electricity. The solar system at the Governor’s Residence will generate electricity continuously during normal daytime operations, offsetting electric utility supply to the residence.

MESA Environmental Sciences Inc. was in charge of installing the solar system. The project was funded by a $20,000 grant from The Reinvestment Fund (TRF), which manages the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) created by the state Public Utility Commission to promote renewable resources, clean technologies and energy conservation. The grant came from the fund’s Solar Photovoltaic Grant Program. BP Products North America Inc. contributed another $19,250 for the project.

“SDF’s goal is to build a renewable energy future for all of us in Pennsylvania,” SDF Technology and Policy Manager Roger Clark said. “We are pleased that the Governor has chosen to use sunlight to power his residence. We hope this will encourage more Pennsylvanians to explore this extremely versatile, clean and renewable energy option.”

“Governor Rendell and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania are demonstrating innovative and smart leadership, utilizing environmental project funding to generate clean and reliable solar electricity for both critical backup homeland security infrastructure and day-to-day power needs,” BP Solar Vice President Mary Shields said. “Not only does this make sense for the Governor’s residence, for the environment and for security purposes, but just last year the Governor led the charge on passing an Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard to ensure that all Pennsylvanians benefit from a cleaner and more diverse electricity supply.”

The solar panel installation was completed as part of the March 14, 2001, multi-site remediation agreement (MSA) between DEP and BP Amoco, now BP Products North America Inc. The MSA established consistent standards for cleanups at various BP sites statewide and accelerated the closeout of BP storage tanks throughout the Commonwealth.

In addition, as part of the MSA, BP can ensure continued environmental improvements by donating funds for joint DEP- and BP-approved projects. In 2004, funding was set aside for two solar projects on state-owned buildings --- the first at the Governor’s Residence and the second at DEP’s Southeast Regional Office, which is not yet under way. Aside from these solar projects, the innovative MSA program has produced many benefits for the Commonwealth. In 2003, DEP used donated BP funds to clean up abandoned tire dumps in Armstrong and Lycoming counties.

Governor Rendell has been working with members of the General Assembly and legislative leaders who have been crucial to efforts to put in place policies and financial tools designed to promote advanced energy projects in the state.

Pennsylvania is now home to one of the nation’s most progressive two-tiered energy portfolio standards, ensuring that in 15 years, 18 percent of all of the energy generated in the Commonwealth comes from clean, efficient sources. At least 0.5 percent of Tier I electricity must come from solar photovoltaic cells --- a requirement that is at least three times more ambitious than anything any neighboring states have put in place.

The Governor also is working to build on the state’s leadership in the development and deployment of new technologies by inviting letters of interest from advanced energy companies that want to take advantage of the opportunities Pennsylvania has to offer by seeking assistance with project financing or business siting.

The Pennsylvania Energy Harvest Grant Program, which encourages clean and renewable energy projects, has awarded $10 million and leveraged another $26.7 million in private funds since its inception in May 2003 to build a clean, indigenous, diversified energy industry in the state. Passage of the Governor’s Growing Greener II initiative is critical to expanding Energy Harvest and building on the success the program already has achieved. Growing Greener II would provide $80 million over four years to expand the grant program.

For more information on DEP’s multi-site remediation agreement with BP, visit the department’s Web site at www.dep.state.pa.us, Keyword: “MSA.”

For more information about the Sustainable Development Fund and its work to promote renewable resources, clean technologies and energy conservation, visit www.trfund.com.