Chambersburg utilities: Solar energy comes to Chambersburg
Solar energy has come to Chambersburg in a big way, with the flip of a switch Monday afternoon at the borough’s new solar generation plant.
Standing amid more than 50,000 solar panels, borough, county and state officials joined representatives from Safari Energy, LLC and Sun Tribe Development to “flip the switch” and inaugurate a new 15-megawatt solar array.
The new Commerce Street facility is owned and operated by Safari Energy. Safari will sell 100% of the electricity generated at the facility to the borough under a long-term power purchase agreement.
The system covers 86 acres and is expected to produce enough electricity to power more than 2,600 homes. It will meet 10% of the borough’s annual electricity needs.
“We have worked with some amazing partners to achieve this much-desired outcome,” Council President Alice Elia said. “I’m honored to represent a community that is making a commitment to our planet and our future.”
Committed to renewable energy
Borough Manager Jeff Stonehill calls Chambersburg “a special community.”
He points out that it’s the only municipality in Pennsylvania to provide its businesses and citizens with all utilities; including water, sewer, sanitation, natural gas and electricity.
“The commitment of Council was to add clean renewable energy such as solar to our power portfolio,” he said.
The town’s leaders wanted to do that while keeping its electric rates “incredibly low,” he said.
“In this groundbreaking public/private partnership with Sun Tribe and PPL Safari, Chambersburg will pump 15 MW of solar behind the meter, directly into the Borough grid to homes and businesses,” he said.
The project adds to the borough’s existing renewable energy resources, bringing the system’s total renewable energy to 25%. Stonehill calls it “arguably the most reliable and least cost energy in the Commonwealth.”
The average borough utility customer saves around $1,000 per year when compared to customers outside the borough, he said.
Chambersburg operates the largest of 35 municipal electric systems in Pennsylvania. It is the only municipal electric system in the commonwealth to own and operate electric generating plants.
Partnership with a vision
Safari Energy, a PPL company, is a leading developer of solar power for commercial, industrial, and institutional customers nationwide. Vincent Sorgi, president and chief executive officer of PPL Corporation, delivered remarks at the event. Leaders from PPL and Safari Energy joined him.
“Working with partners like the Borough of Chambersburg is incredibly rewarding,” said Vijay Singh, President, PPL Renewables. “Their innovative outlook and commitment to renewable energy align very much with our vision for a sustainable energy future.“
The Chambersburg project is Safari Energy’s largest single-site solar system, he said.
“We hope to build on this success with other projects and solar portfolios across the country,” he added.
“This project is a fabulous example of how to site a solar farm on land that has already been disturbed for another purpose, including mining,” said Danny Van Clief, CEO, Sun Tribe Development.
Sun Tribe originated and developed the solar project. Van Clief said the project would not have come to fruition without visionaries at the local, county and state level.
“It is also a project that would not have happened were it not for the vision and determination of Sun Tribe’s many partners at the local, county and state level,” Van Clief said.
He thanked Bryan Salzmann and Justin George of Salzmann Hughes, P.C.; Marie Holland and Marissa Price of GMS Funding Solutions, and Lance Kegerreis of Dennis E. Black Engineering, for their work in getting the project off the ground.