Nonprofit group Solar United Neighbors will host the second annual Pennsylvania Solar Congress from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 15, at Chestnut Ridge Golf Resort & Conference Center, 132 Pine Ridge Road, Burrell Township, Indiana County.

Organizers said the statewide conference “attracts solar owners, supporters and advocates” from across Pennsylvania. The day will include a series of presentations about solar technology, as well as the current solar landscape and future for solar energy in the commonwealth.

The event will highlight the renewable energy progress in the area, with Indiana County Commissioner Sherene Hess providing welcoming remarks. Hess share what the county is doing to remain energy leaders as the market expands to accommodate interest in renewables such as solar.

“There is increased interest in the sustainable provision of reliable, low-cost sources of energy around the region, the state, and the country,” Hess said in a news release. “Solar energy proves to be a promising addition to our region’s energy portfolio, and I’m excited to showcase that at the Pennsylvania Solar Congress.”

In 2019, the Indiana County Sustainable Economic Development Task Force partnered with Solar United Neighbors to run the Indiana County Solar Co-op, the group’s most successful solar co-op in the state, which organizers said fared better than co-ops in more populated area such as Pittsburgh.

The total number of solar installations in Indiana County grew by nearly 70% because of last year’s co-op program. Nineteen county residents installed solar, and more than 140 learned about solar at free information sessions hosted by Solar United Neighbors.

Last year’s co-op resulted in 210 kW of solar power installed, $385,340.00 invested in the regional economy, and 5.2 million pounds of lifetime carbon offsets.

Because of the solar installations, Indiana Borough was able to streamline its permitting and zoning processes and was awarded the SolSmart Silver designation, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded program identifying communities that are “open for solar business.”

“Being the first SolSmart designee in western Pennsylvania supports solar development within Indiana Borough and demonstrates our commitment to make going solar simple,” Indiana Borough Council President Peter Broad said. “This benefits our residents by making us a more welcoming and sustainable community.”

The 2020 Pennsylvania Solar Congress will cover topics pertinent to the area’s farmers and rural homeowners, to name a few. Speaker Ed Johnstonbaugh, energy savings and renewables educator at PennState Extension, will present a session for landowners seeking more details about hosting large-scale solar arrays on their land.

Heaven Sensky of the Center for Coalfield Justice will present on her work with Solar United Neighbors to plan the first Greene County Solar Festival.

The state Solar Congress will mark the opening date of the co-op. Congress attendees can sign up at the event and attend a session to learn about solar energy and the co-op process.

Other sessions during the event will focus on electric vehicles, grassroots solar advocacy and the future of solar and solar policy in Pennsylvania.

“Whether you’re a solar homeowner, completely new to solar, or somewhere in between, this event is for you,” said Henry McKay, Pennsylvania program director for Solar United Neighbors.

This event is free and open to the public. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. To register online, visit www.solarunitedneighbors.org/pasolarcongress

Solar United Neighbors is a nonprofit organization that aims to represent the needs and interests of solar owners and supporters. The group hosts co-ops, advocacy events, and education programs throughout the state to help people become informed solar consumers, maximize the value of their solar investment and advocate for fair solar policies.

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