Essential Pittsburgh
3:20 pm
Mon June 30, 2014

Why Solar Power is Such An Underutilized Resource

Solar energy is one of the most underutilized resources in Pennsylvania.
Solar energy is one of the most underutilized resources in Pennsylvania.
Credit Christine / Flickr

Solar power has been in the news and discussed since the 1970’s. So why isn’t being utilized more in the United States?

Germany, a country half the size of Texas, harnesses the sun’s energy for many of its residential homes as Mayor Peduto found out earlier this year

Joylette Portlock, President of Communitopia and creator of the Don't Just Sit There, Do Something About Climate Change web series, thinks that Pittsburgh can better utilize the sun’s rays for energy.

"The idea of harnessing the sun's energy for power has been around since the industrial revolution started, it's been around for a long time.  Just as a country, we've had the notion that fossil fuels were cheaper or more easily available, easier to exploit, and we've really built up the infrastructure around those.  And it's only when you get to periods of time, like we saw in the 70's with the oil crisis, where people change their focus and say 'hey, maybe we shouldn't be depending on other countries for our energy,' or maybe, 'we should find a fuel that's free.'"

Even though Portlock mentions less than 1% of our current energy is coming from solar power, many homeowners in Pittsburgh are indeed utilizing solar panels, like Rocky in Mount Lebanon, who sets an example with his use of solar energy.  Rocky gets 40 percent of his household power from solar panels, and says his bills have dropped "tremendously" over the past four years.

Portlock says recent legislation from the Obama administration may help the country along when it comes to using the sun's energy.

“I don't know there are too many reasons we wouldn't want to build out our renewable energy sector.  As has been going on, we've been seeing an increasing amount of renewable capacity installed, and I think that should continue to be a part of the picture overall."