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Op-Ed: Our Community's Alternative Energy Future

Op-Ed

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In recent weeks there have been a number of exciting developments regarding alternative energy in the 16th District. Our communities will soon be taking advantage of new solar plants and expanded hydroelectric power. Solar, hydroelectric, and other renewable energy sources are moving us in the direction of cleanly generated, domestically produced power that reduces our reliance on foreign fossil fuels.

I recently had the opportunity to attend a groundbreaking for a solar farm in West Chester that will be used to power the Ingram's Mill Water Treatment Plant. On a typical summer day, the solar farm will generate enough electricity to power the entire facility.

The installation will be the second largest solar farm in the state. The 1.1 megawatts of power generated by the 4,800 solar panels will be the equivalent power generated by 3,000 barrels of oil a year. The same company working on this project is also developing a 1.5 megawatt facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

In Lancaster County, Johnson and Johnson has announced a $3.3 million investment in a new solar farm to power their facilities. The 620 kilowatts produced by the installation would power over 500 homes. Additionally, the installation will be on the roof of the building ensuring that no further land will be needed for the solar farm.

Solar power is getting more efficient and less expensive as important innovations move forward. The excitement generated by solar power was evident a few weeks ago during the Solar Decathlon held on the National Mall in Washington. Students from across the country and across the world, including a team from Penn State, competed to build houses that ran on solar energy. American students won eight out of the ten individual category awards.

While solar power is growing, an older form of clean energy is getting a makeover. The Holtwood Hydroelectric Plant on the Susquehanna River has been providing power to our region for almost 100 years. The operators of the dam recently received approval to upgrade the generators and install a new fish passage.

The new generators will more than double the power production of the dam. The 108 megawatts produced will be enough to power over 100,000 new homes. At the same time the dam will become more environmentally friendly by ensuring that migrating fish are able to get upstream.

Also located along the banks of the Susquehanna is the Lancaster County Solid Waste Management Authority waste-to-energy facility, which I have visited several times. Today's modern facilities are remarkably clean. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency says that electricity from waste-to-energy facilities is some of the cleanest energy available.

Waste-to-energy consumes 8,700 tons of waste per day in the state of Pennsylvania. Every ton of waste used for energy, is one less ton that goes into a landfill. Moving into the future, waste-to-energy will become even more efficient ensuring that we responsibly handle waste while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.

Solar, hydroelectric, wind, waste, and other renewables are an important part of our future energy. While we're seeing lots of new development right now, we're going to continue to need to use fossil fuels. It is my hope that a wide variety of energy sources will continue to spur our economy towards growth and decrease our reliance on foreign countries. We should be protecting our environment and diversifying our energy resources through innovation, encouragement and entrepreneurship. I am pleased to see that the 16th District is moving toward development of American natural resources.


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