Quick, start naming the top 10 states in the country for producing solar power. Florida would be an accurate first choice, and then most people would round out their guesses by continuing along the country's southern tier of states.
Did you include Pennsylvania? We rank number nine in the nation for the capacity to produce solar power. However, we're number 11 in actually utilizing the state's potential.
Industry leaders think it's time to do something about that. The Manufacturer's Resource Center and RER Energy Group are offering a seminar on solar photovoltaic energy for commercial, industrial and agricultural enterprises. Local manufacturer Highwood USA, in Tidewood Industrial Park, Hometown, is hosting the seminar, which will be held from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. Friday.
Maureen Donovan, assistant director of Workforce and Community Services for Lehigh Carbon Community College, said that the MRC has organized similar seminars in Lehigh County. Since the coming seminar is in Schuylkill County, it's a great opportunity for industry leaders in Schuylkill and Carbon counties to learn more about solar energy.
"A solar project can be many different sizes, even just a small number of panels on a rooftop, Donovan said. "There will be people there to answer questions about any aspect of solar energy."
Highwood USA President John Quarmley agreed that MRC does a fantastic job informing and educating companies about what's out there to help them be more successful.
"There is a good financial return on solar projects, but that was just one piece of the equation for us," Quarmley said. "We did it more to be a good environmental steward, to reduce our impact on the environment."
Quarmley said Highwood added solar energy in 2011, reducing its energy costs by 20 percent, which is about $5,000 a month. Jim Kurtz, president of RER Energy Group, said there are two conditions that make adding solar energy particularly attractive: prices for solar systems have fallen by approximately 50 percent over the past three years, and 70 percent to 80 percent of solar project costs are recoverable when including tax credits and accelerated depreciation benefits.
The seminar will include sessions on finances and technology.
"The seminar will benefit any business owner and personnel who are responsible for managing electrical systems and associated costs," Kurtz said. "Members of our staff will work with you to answer questions about technology, other types of renewable energy and financial incentives we offer free grant writing services and have helped clients obtain more that $15 million in federal and state solar grant awards."