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Westmoreland

Solar panel installation continues to rise

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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jim Vesely has 42 solar panels on his Greensburg home’s roof, which he says provide a third of his energy consumption and slash about $1,000 from his annual electricity bill.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jim Vesely of Greensburg looks at his Enphase Enlighten Manager app on his smartphone, while showing his solar energy production at his home.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jim Vesely of Greensburg says his solar system produces 10,650 kilowatt hours. He expects to see a return on investment in 10 to 12 years.
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Dan Speicher | Tribune-Review
Jim Vesely of Greensburg believes “solar is the future,” predicting that electricity may someday be produced by individuals instead of corporate giants.

The number of solar panels installed in 2016 nearly doubled from the year before, with 22 states adding over 100 megawatts in solar power, according to preliminary data from Boston-based GTM Research and the trade group Solar Energy Industries Association.

Solar jobs increased nearly a quarter nationally last year, with over 260,000 total jobs in the industry as of November, a report released last month by the Solar Foundation showed. Pennsylvania had a 23 percent one-year rise, climbing to 3,061 solar jobs in 2016.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, or EIA, said Pennsylvania produces less than 1 percent of the state’s net electricity generation. However, the Washington, D.C., group noted the number of installations is increasing.

“Solar (energy) is the choice of most customers generating power into the Pennsylvania electric grid,” EIA reported in a state profile on renewable energies.

Installing a 6-kilowatt solar panel system would cost from $12,400 to $16,600, according to EnergySage, an online solar comparison-shopping marketplace. A 10kW installation would cost $20,600 to $27,700. These figures are based on costs after a 30 percent break through the federal Solar Investment Tax Credit.

Joe Morinville, owner of Energy Independent Solutions in Pittsburgh, said he owns a 15kW solar panel system. He said the system powers his entire home’s electricity needs.

The average household in Pennsylvania consumes about 1,200 watts — or 1.2kWh — of energy per hour, according to EIA. Inside Energy estimated Pennsylvania’s average monthly electricity bill in 2016 amounted to $112.70.

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