Centre County, Pa. – Looking to the future, a number of central and northcentral Pa. companies were recognized for embracing solar technology into their business models.
Thursday evening, the Pennsylvania Solar Center presented the prestigious Lodestar Award, a distinction given to Pennsylvania entities who are leading the way in investing in clean and renewable solar energy.
Accepting the award at a virtual award ceremony were:
- BAI Group
- Bellefonte KOA Campground
- Burkholder’s Market
- Centre County Board of Commissioners
- Happy Valley Vineyard & Winery
- Millheim Borough Council
- Organic Climbing
- Owens Farm
- Sun Directed
- Susquehanna University
Several speakers and highlights from projects were featured at the event, including PA House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff; Dr. Paul Shrivastava, the Chief Sustainability Officer at Penn State University; Barb Christ, co-owner of Happy Valley Winery; and Caroline Owens, co-owner of Owens Farm and member of the American Solar Grazing Association.
“We are so pleased to present these organizations with the Lodestar Award, which recognizes them for their visionary leadership in choosing to invest in sustainable solar energy,” said Sharon Pillar, Executive Director of the PA Solar Center.
“Solar energy is the way of the future, and we hope that their inspiring commitment and stewardship will be lauded and emulated across the community in the years to come," Pillar continued.
The word Lodestar historically refers to a star used in navigation, but with the PA Solar Center’s Lodestar Award, it connotes an entity that is leading the way in its sector for leveraging solar energy. With the award, the PA Solar Center recognizes these organization’s inspirational leadership.
More and more Pennsylvania businesses and organizations are choosing to go solar, and not just for sustainability reasons. Investments in renewable energy sources like solar and wind are also extremely cost-effective, paying for themselves relatively quickly and then achieving impressive cost savings down the road.
Pennsylvania renewable energy projects have created almost 10,000 jobs spanning the entire supply chain, from technicians and engineers to salespeople, construction workers, and manufacturers.
According to the Finding Pennsylvania Solar Future Project, increasing the solar portion of the state’s electricity mix from the current 0.5 percent goal to 10 percent by 2030 would create upwards of 100,000 jobs and result in a net economic benefit of $1.6 billion annually. The current 0.5 percent goal is set to flat-line in May, but if the state’s General Assembly would increase it, they would boost economic recovery at a crucial time.
Organizations interested in potentially switching to solar energy can reference PA Solar Center’s GET program (Galvanizing our Energy Transition), which provides technical assistance and financial guidance.
Sel Edor, market director of Renewables at BAI Group, LLC, said, “We are honored to receive the Lodestar award which recognizes BAI Group’s efforts towards advancing solar energy in Pennsylvania and surrounding states. Our focus is on finding creative development and financing solutions for solar projects that would traditionally be complex to execute or fund."
Bellefonte KOA Campground owner Casey Dillon added, "At the Bellefonte KOA Campground we believe the outdoors not only creates a happier healthier future, but also brings families together. As such we believe it is our mission to create and encourage a greener future."
June of 2019 was Burkholder’s Market's "switch flip," when they switched to their 600 KW solar carport system. “This system is expected to reduce our energy bill by about 70% per year," said said Russ Burkholder.
"So far, the system has exceeded performance guarantees. Our decision to look at solar stemmed from a desire to strengthen the Market by reducing dramatically one of our largest expenses, energy costs," Burkholder said. "It’s always a great thing when environmentally friendly investments make economical and financial sense for small businesses.”
“Our Solar Sewn workshop has enabled us economic security in sketchy times by promising us a guaranteed low electric rate for our overall bill of materials, built on a reclaimed coal mine,” said Josh Helke, owner of Organic Climbing.
Susquehanna University brought sheep onto their three-megawatt solar array to adopt an environmentally friendly way to control vegetation around the panels.
“As the flock grazes, they also improve soil health, sequester carbon, support pollinator habitat, and build community goodwill while avoiding risk of equipment damage from mowing activities," said Caroline Owens, owner of Owens Farm of Sunbury and member of American Solar Grazing Association (ASGA). "It is truly a win-win for all parties.
President of Susquehanna University, Jonathan D. Green, agrees. “This [array] is a major step forward in the university's commitment to implementing earth-friendly initiatives that are at the heart of responsible living in our interdependent world."