West Greene School District explores going solar with state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, state Reps. Bud Cook, Elizabeth Fiedler

WAYNESBURG, May 9 – Last Friday, state Sen. Camera Bartolotta, R-Beaver/Greene/Washington, and state Reps. Bud Cook, R-Washington/Greene, and Elizabeth Fiedler, D-Phila., visited West Greene School District to discuss the possibility of building a solar array on West Greene’s campus. The legislators met with school officials, labor leaders and technical experts from the PA Solar Center to discuss locations, financing and workforce development options.

Officials at West Greene School District are interested in installing a solar array to reduce high, market-rate electricity costs. The federal Inflation Reduction Act would fund 30% to 50% of any renewable energy project, and Fiedler’s Solar for Schools legislation (H.B. 1032) would fund up to 50% of solar projects for PA public schools. House Bill 1032 passed the state house in June of 2023 and is awaiting consideration in the state Senate.

“The cost of energy is huge. If we can alleviate that by using Solar for Schools and providing that wonderful resource with some federal funding, I think that is a win-win-win for all of us,” Bartolotta said.

“I commend West Greene School District officials for exploring solar as an option that may help save taxpayer dollars,” Cook said. “Now is the time to think outside the box when it comes to dealing with rising energy costs.”

Labor leaders expressed support for exploring a solar project at West Greene, including Kris Anderson, international representative for the IBEW Third District, who joined the legislators Friday. Also in attendance was Steve Santucci, business agent for Laborers Local 1058.

“Solar for Schools could be the boost we need to prepare the next generation of union workers for growing energy industries,” said Anderson. “Clean energy projects will require a highly skilled workforce, and the IBEW is ready to create hands-on training opportunities in school communities.”

Environmental leaders are eager to make use of federal Inflation Reduction Act incentives for clean energy projects.

"Pennsylvania has historically been an energy leader, but we’re falling behind other states in the development of renewable and zero-carbon energy. Solar for Schools would help us reap the economic benefits of solar for school districts while creating energy in ways that minimize the health impact on the hearts, minds and lungs of our children,” said Carolyn Heckman, Pennsylvania policy and outreach coordinator at the Evangelical Environmental Network. “As evangelicals, defending children’s health is not just an ethical calling, but a biblical one. As such, we are excited about this opportunity to bring clean, safe energy to children in Pennsylvania."

Fiedler has toured several school districts across Pennsylvania to discuss the environmental, economic and financial benefits of solar energy. Most recently, she visited Carlisle Area School District, where Bellaire Elementary School is run 100% on solar energy. The cost of energy bills has been cut 14% districtwide thanks to its solar array.

Districts like West Greene are considering following suit and using Solar for Schools to leverage federal Inflation Reduction Act investments to save money.

“I’ve traveled to schools across the Commonwealth to meet with school administrators, and the demand for solar is growing,” Fiedler said. “So many school districts are struggling, and when you explain the savings solar energy can bring, not many of them want to turn down potentially millions of dollars.”

Video from the tour can be viewed at Fiedler: Bringing Solar to Rural Schools (youtube.com).