Pittsburgh has only 59 fully sunny days each year on average, according to the National Climatic Data Center. Despite the somewhat cloudy climate, a campaign to double the number of solar-powered homes and businesses in Allegheny County will kick off Feb. 8 with a celebration in Point Breeze.
The initiative, Solarize Allegheny, starts its first phase of educational outreach and marketing about solar power in Point Breeze, Etna, Millvale, Moon Township and South Fayette. According to project director Sharon Pillar, the program will have five 20 week phases, each including four or five communities, although only the first two have been funded so far. Pillar says the goal is to have each community convert 10 homes or businesses to solar power within 20 weeks.
Allegheny County currently has 211 solar installations, Pillar said, but there is room for more.
“Solar works very well here and we compare it to Germany which is the leading solar nation, and Germany gets about as much sun as Alaska does, and actually somewhat less sun than parts of Alaska. And we know we get more sun than Alaska,” Pillar said.
During the next 20 weeks, volunteers and Solarize Allegheny partners will host events in Point Breeze and the four other phase one neighborhoods to encourage residents to consider switching to solar. Local solar-powered building owners will give tours of their homes and businesses, and the Solarize Allegheny website will have an online portal where people can request quotes for solar panel installation for their homes.
“There’s two misconceptions that people have about solar: one, that it doesn’t work well here and the other is that they can’t afford it,” Pillar said. “The price of solar has dropped so dramatically over the last few years that solar now is about the same price on a monthly basis as to what people are paying for their current electric bill to the utility.”
The Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority offers an interest-free loan to families with qualifying incomes that can be used to install solar panels, according to Pillar. Pillar also said that a 30 percent tax credit for investing in solar power ends next year, “so there’s no better time to do this.”
The second phase of the program will begin in late spring. Communities interested in participating must submit a request for proposal and be approved.