“We have exceeded our goal of 350 kilowatts of solar and wind electric systems installed within a year in Northeast Pennsylvania,” says Katharine Dodge, a spokesperson for SEEDS, the local non-profit renewable energy group that has been sponsoring a year-long campaign called “The 350 Project.”


“We have exceeded our goal of 350 kilowatts of solar and wind electric systems installed within a year in Northeast Pennsylvania,” says Katharine Dodge, a spokesperson for SEEDS, the local non-profit renewable energy group that has been sponsoring a year-long campaign called “The 350 Project.”
Sustainable Energy Education & Development Support (SEEDS) has recorded 47 systems put into operation by nine installers in northeast Pennsylvania, all within the last year. Thirty-six of the installations were solar electric and nine were small-scale wind systems for a total of 356.68 kilowatts. Just one kilowatt of solar panels (approximately a ten by ten foot square) can generate about 1,200 kilowatts (kW) of clean electricity annually, saving nearly a ton of CO2 from spewing into the air each year. So, the solar installs alone will save about 298.6 tons of CO2 from going into the atmosphere every year.
The sudden increase in solar installations is due, in part, to the SEEDS-sponsored training of local contractors in wind and solar installs.
Other factors are generous federal tax credits for renewable energy, Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) redeemable by auction on the open market for each 1,000 kWh produced, and the rebates offered under the Pa. Sunshine Program administered by the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Rebates can cover as much as 35% of the cost of a solar installation.
“Because of rebates and incentives, there has never been a better time to install a solar array,” says SEEDS Chair, Michele Sands. “And, we are now one of the fastest growing solar power generating areas in the state.”
The 350 project, launched in March of 2010 with some help from PPL Electric Utilities, still has three more months to try to reach its other goal: to help local families save at least 350 kilowatt hours on their electric bills.
“So far, fifteen families have saved 39,208 kilowatt hours,” says Dodge. “That translates into nearly 30 tons of CO2 saved from going into our atmosphere. Our goal is to see savings of 122,500 kWh by the end of March.”
The Badner family of Greentown reported a savings of 14,223 kilowatt hours (kwh) over the course of 12 months. They did it by adding blown-in cellulose insulation to their attic, crawl space, and garage, installing wood blinds on their windows (which added about 3.94 R value), turning down the thermostat, installing more energy-efficient washer, dryer, and kitchen appliances, and using a tankless water heater. They also taught their daughters, aged four and seven, to turn out lights when not in use. They are now updating the siding on their 1980s era house to cut down on drafts. They also installed a wood pellet stove which does add CO2 to the air, but, is not as bad as coal, still a major electricity maker in Pennsylvania.
“We do our best to be educated consumers to do whatever we can to reduce our own energy cost,” say the Badners. “We have reduced our carbon footprint for the benefit of the community as well.”
Other families have cut their electric bills significantly by using a clothesline instead of a dryer, putting in more efficient windows and doors, adding insulation, and unplugging appliances and electronics when not in use to eliminate phantom power use. Some had huge savings simply by switching to the cold water cycle on their clothes washers.
“This is a win-win project,” says Ms. Dodge. “It saves people money and cleans our air.” There are also other incentives: those who have saved more than 350 kwh will receive a discount card to use in thirteen area businesses, and they will be eligible for door prize drawings in the spring. The grand prize is a $5,000. solar thermal installation.”
There is no cost to join the 350 Project. Anyone interested in participating is welcome to contact SEEDS at (570) 224-0052 or by e-mail at SEEDSGroup@gmail.com.