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Centre County school district, governments and utilities hope to go solar in a group buy

A field of solar panels with trees in the background
Anne Danahy
/
WPSU
The University Area Joint Authority in Centre County had a solar array installed on its property, in large part to save money.

Fifteen Centre County entities are banding together to buy solar energy that could cover all their electricity needs for up to 25 years, which they say could mean cheaper electric bills in addition to the environmental benefits.

They’ve put out a request for proposals to buy up to 32 million kWh per year of solar power and asked for proposals for contracts that would last 5, 15 or 25 years.

The group includes the State College Area School District, Centre Area Transportation Authority, Centre County government, Centre County Housing Authority, Centre Region Council of Governments, College Township, College Township Water Authority, Ferguson Township, Halfmoon Township, Harris Township, Patton Township, State College Borough, Centre County Refuse and Recycling Authority, Centre Hall Potter Township Sewer Authority and the State College Borough Water Authority.

SCASD board of trustees member Peter Buck said there wouldn’t be any big up-front cost and the electricity will cost less. He said they’re currently paying about $.05/kWh, but he expects that rate will go up significantly if they need to renew.

“Our goals as a group are to provide long-term, reliable electricity to keep costs reasonable to taxpayers and rate-payers, while we meet social and environmental goals, particularly around avoiding carbon,” Buck said.

The Centre Region Council of Governments passed a Climate Action and Adaptation plan in 2021 that commits to a 45% reduction in greenhouse gasses by 2030.

The solar panels won’t be on buildings or land owned by the group. They’ll likely be on farmland, brownfields or reclaimed mining land.

Buck said SCASD took the lead because it’s the biggest user of electricity in the group and because they’re particularly concerned about the next generation.

“Our kids are pleading with us to do something about climate change,” Buck said.

Buck said this kind of group purchase is a rare concept in Pennsylvania. The group hopes to award a solar contract in January.

Emily Reddy is the news director at WPSU-FM, the NPR-affiliate public radio station for central and northern Pennsylvania.
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