More than 90 solar energy supporters from around the state joined together this past Sunday at the First Annual Pennsylvania Solar Congress. Held at the Community Forge in Pittsburgh, the Congress was an opportunity for grassroots solar supporters to meet, share stories, and celebrate solar energy.
The day kicked off with opening remarks from Henry McKay, Solar United Neighbors of Pennsylvania Program Director. McKay emphasized the importance of building a strong solar movement to ensure that the Keystone State continues to enjoy the benefits of being a global leader in renewable energy as technology and consumer preferences change.
The Congress then broke into separate sessions. Andrea Hylant of Solar United Neighbors helped participants understand how solar works on a typical home, and Michael Kirven of the Three Rivers Electric Vehicle Association discussed the ins and outs of electric vehicles in western Pennsylvania. Then, a panel of solar homeowners shared their experiences going solar before McKay gave a crash course on the major elements of solar policy in Pennsylvania.
At lunch, ten Solar Congress attendees brought their personal electric vehicles for the EV Showcase and answered questions about their cars from curious participants.
After lunch, the Congress held two more presentations. Glen Brand of Solar United Neighbors discussed how attendees could become effective solar citizen lobbyists and advocate for solar rights and access, community solar, and clean energy policies in Pennsylvania. Then, Hylant returned to the stage to discuss how battery storage works and how it benefits residential solar systems.
The day ended with an open forum discussion. Participants discussed how to build support for community solar legislation in the Pennsylvania legislature, how to expand solar access when legislative strategies fail, and the importance of applying an equity and justice framing when considering energy issues. Participants also wrote postcards to their state representatives in support of HB 531, a bill that would enable community solar in Pennsylvania and bring solar energy to residents who would not otherwise have access to it.