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Solar power opportunities are growing in Pennsylvania. If you are interested in solar, the Solar Resource Hub page was designed to guide anyone with questions about solar by providing resources to help answer your questions and implement your solar project successfully.
According to the
U.S. Energy Information Administration, wind energy was the state's largest renewable source for electricity generation and provided about two-fifths of the state's renewable electricity in 2020. Wind resources for commercial power production are found on the state's Appalachian Mountain crests stretching southwest to northeast and along the state's Lake Erie shoreline. As of mid-2021, the state had 26 operating wind farms with almost 1,500 megawatts of generating capacity.
For Wind Energy Basics, go to the
U.S. Department of Energy‘s site.
There are three major types of wind power:
- Utility-scale wind, wind turbines larger than 100 kilowatts are developed with electricity delivered to the power grid and distributed to customers by electric utilities;
- Offshore wind, which are wind turbines erected in bodies of water around the world;
- Distributed or "small" wind, which uses turbines of 100 kilowatts or smaller to directly power a home, farm or small business as its primary use.
To view a map of wind farms that the PADEP has funded,
visit our reports page.
Is onsite wind power an option for your business?
Small wind electric systems are particularly suitable for the agricultural sector at farms and ranches for remote applications such as pumping water. If you are located in a more developed area, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory published a
technical report in June of 2016 outlining some important recommendations including the need to fully conduct onsite atmospheric measurements and performance of detailed loss calculations to account for real-world operating conditions.
If you are interested in learning whether wind is practical for you, the size of wind turbine you need, wind system costs, and other information regarding small wind, we suggest you check out the small wind information provided in "A Pennsylvania Consumer's Guide to Small Wind Electric Systems" and
U.S. DOE’s Small Wind Guide.
Do you have a lot of land and want to "farm" wind?
If you own a large piece of land, you may be interested in utility-scale wind installation. Two first steps for large wind development are contacting the Regional DEP Office and your local municipality. The construction of large wind farms typically creates impacts to water and wetlands from activities such as road building, and your Regional DEP Office can assist you in identifying what permits you may need. In addition, as part of a normal permit application, the applicant or consultant needs to complete a
PNDI Environmental Review and attempt to resolve any conflicts with required state or federal agencies before submitting the permit application to DEP.
In addition to this required review, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has signed cooperative, voluntary agreements with companies developing wind energy in Pennsylvania to avoid, minimize and potentially mitigate any adverse impacts the development of wind energy may have on the state's wildlife resources, brokered with substantial input from wind energy industry representatives and assistance from the Pennsylvania Wind and Wildlife Collaborative (PWWC)
Wind Energy Cooperative Agreement.
Construction of large wind energy projects generally requires approval by the local government(s) in which they are located. Many of the wind farms in Pennsylvania followed guidelines established in the
Model Wind Ordinance for Local Governments. This document can be adapted as needed by the municipality that is considering wind farm development within its boundaries.
For information on all of PA wind farms, visit
Saint Francis University's Wind Farms page.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), in partnership with DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the American Wind Energy Association, released a comprehensive dataset of U.S. wind turbine locations and characteristics that is easily accessible, accurate, updated often, and can be viewed in the
United States Wind Turbine Database Viewer.
According to the
U.S. Energy Information Administration, in 2020, Pennsylvania ranked among the top dozen states in the amount of electricity generated by biomass resources, and biomass-fueled facilities accounted for about one-fifth of the state's renewable generation.
Biomass energy ("bioenergy") is biologically derived from a living or recently living organism (animal or plant). Biomass energy includes a large number of "fuels" ranging from waste wood and food to switchgrass and algae grown specifically to use as fuel. For Biomass energy basics, see the
U.S. Department of Energy National Renewable Energy website.
Can your business use biomass for power?
Your business may generate biowaste material which can be converted through digestion into heat and power, through direct combustion, or by conversion into a liquid fuel. You also have the option to use someone else's biowaste or to grow a crop that will provide the energy type you need. As you explore these options, keep in mind that depending upon your primary business and the existing air and/or waste permits you have, you may need to get
permits to use or take other's waste materials or modify your permit based on the fuel input. Proper emission controls are necessary to ensure that the creation of particulate matter (PM), nitrogen oxides (NOX), volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and carbon monoxide (CO) are not causing an environmental problem rather than solving one.
One of the most common biowaste opportunities in Pennsylvania arises from the ability to anaerobically digest manure, food wastes, and wastewater treatment materials. For farmers,
the Penn State Agricultural Extension Office has a lot of available information on their site.
DEP has created the
General Permit WMGM042 for anaerobic digestion of animal manure on a farm mixed with (i) grease trap waste (collected from restaurants or grocery stores) and (ii) pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste from commercial or institutional establishments.
The EPA has two useful sites: their
AgSTAR program and a large listing of the various Federal regulations that impact farms conducting digestion, including links back to DEP sites:
Guidelines and Permitting for Livestock Anaerobic Digesters
Map: Anaerobic Digester Projects in the United States
View map on EPA's website
When looking to burn a biomass material for space or process heat, one needs to be sure that emissions from the process are correctly managed. You should contact your DEP office for information regarding air quality permit requirements. DEP is one of many partners of a program
Pennsylvania Fuels for Schools & Communities that looks to use wood waste materials (and other biomass products) as fuel sources for special boilers. Their resource materials are a good start for any business, not just schools, considering direct combustion.
Biofuels are used for transportation and heating once they are converted into a liquid fuel. An example of this is biodiesel, which can be made from animal or vegetable fats or waste restaurant grease. Two great resources to learn more about the costs and benefits of these fuels are the Energy Information Administration:
Biofuels & Biodiesel and the
DOE's Alternative Fuels Data Center.
Pennsylvania Food Waste to Renewable Energy Assessment
The Pennsylvania Food Waste to Renewable Energy Assessment is intended to provide the Commonwealth and its partners with the foundation to participate in larger, cross-functional, food waste reduction strategies involving Commonwealth agencies, non-profits, and the private sector. It is the first of its kind attempt to understand the amount of industrial, commercial, and institutional (ICI) food waste diverted via anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting in Pennsylvania. Prior to this assessment, no publicly available dataset comprehensively identified all AD and compost facilities processing ICI food waste or documented the amounts accepted and the additional capacities available.
Key report components include:
- Estimation of the quantities of food waste generated by Industrial, Commercial, and Institutional (ICI) sources within Pennsylvania
- Analysis of the amount of ICI food waste currently processed by existing anaerobic digestion (AD) and composting facilities and the ability of these facilities to increase food waste processing capacity
- Analysis of the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction opportunities and renewable energy generation potential associated with ICI food waste processing
- Case studies of six ICI food waste generators and processors to identify challenges, best practices, and success stories.
- A database of all ICI food waste generators and processors evaluated during the assessment in GIS format to allow for further analysis of local and regional food waste reduction initiatives.
GIS files available upon request.
The Pennsylvania Food Waste to Renewable Energy Assessment provides a comprehensive analysis of ICI food waste generation and processing, but this represents only a portion of the food waste management system within Pennsylvania. Although the residential and agricultural sectors are significant generators of food waste, they are not within the scope of this assessment. This was done in order to focus on identifying diversion potential and best practices from the largest generators of food waste.
Food waste generation examined in this assessment include expired food at retailers, post-consumer food scraps at restaurants and cafeterias, unused ingredients at food manufacturers, and organic by-products from food and beverage manufacturing. This project was partly funded through DEP’s State Energy Program funds from the U.S. Department of Energy.
According to the
U.S. Energy Information Administration, hydropower accounted for more than one-third of Pennsylvania's renewable generation in 2020. The state's conventional hydroelectric facilities are on average about 60 years old, but some of them have been updated and expanded.
Hydropower is a clean energy resource and can generate power quickly for emergency back-up, as well as provide flood control, irrigation and water supply.
Please remember that placing any obstruction, such as a microhydro turbine, into the waters of the Commonwealth requires contacting your Regional DEP Office for possible permits. All streams, lakes, rivers and ponds in Pennsylvania - even those on private property - meet the definition of a water of the Commonwealth under the Cleans Streams Law of 1937. Stream resources must be protected while power is generated.
How Does Hydroelectric Power Work?
Learn how hydropower captures the kinetic energy of flowing water and turns it into electricity for our homes and businesses.
Types of Hydroelectric Power
These hydroelectric stations have small or no reservoir capacity, so that only the water coming from upstream is available for generation at that moment and any oversupply must pass unused. A constant supply of water from a lake or existing reservoir upstream is a significant advantage in choosing sites for run-of-the-river. For more information, visit
the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
These systems need to meet stringent environmental criteria such as river flow, water quality, fish passage and protection, threatened and endangered species, as well as public access/recreation.
Note: Both low impact hydro and run-of the river projects must adequately protect or mitigate their impact on the environment and society. For more information visit the
Low Impact Hydropower Institute.
Conventional (dams) – Impoundment Hydropower
Most hydroelectric power comes from a dam that runs water into a turbine and generator. The power extracted from the water depends on the volume and on the difference in height between the source and the water's outflow. For more information visit the
U.S. Energy Information Administration.
This method produces electricity to supply high peak demands by moving water between reservoirs at different elevations. At times of low electrical demand, the excess generation capacity is used to pump water into the higher reservoir. When the demand becomes greater, water is released back into the lower reservoir through a turbine.
Can Hydroelectric Power Work for My Business?
If your business has a man-made lake or pond, a stream on the property, or generates your own flow of water via a discharge to a stream or river, you may be able to generate power for your facility via what is referred to as low-impact hydro or microhydro. For larger scale hydro, there are a number of agencies – both state and federal – that require permits and thus can take years to move through the process. On the other hand, a microhydro project can be up and running within a year.
The US DOE has a great
introduction to microhydro along with a planning guide on their site. For any smaller facility, DOE's "Planning for Home Renewable Energy Systems" is a helpful guide as you start your project.
hydropower primer provides an overview of the
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s role in regulating and overseeing non-federal hydropower generation in the United States.
Many people use the terms “geothermal” and “geoexchange” to describe any system using the earth for generation of power or the exchange of heat. To avoid confusion, the energy industry has been moving away from this to be more specific. Geothermal energy utilizes the heat of the earth (with deep resource temperatures between 200˚F and 700˚F) to generate electricity. In Pennsylvania there is not sufficient heat to generate electricity, but the use of geoexchange can be a very efficient option for buildings. Geoexchange heating and cooling systems work by drawing heat from one source (typically the earth) and pumping into another (aka a heat pump). If you’re looking for information on geothermal, please check out the US DOE’s
Geothermal Technologies Office.
Here in Pennsylvania, there are suitable conditions for the use of energy efficient ground source heat pump technology, sometimes also referred to as geoexchange and by some as a geothermal heat pump. Ground source heat pumps can cut your heating and cooling costs dramatically. They are durable, low maintenance, and are flexible - they can be installed with a new home or retrofitted into existing homes and also work for commercial business applications, including projects such like one at West Chester University that provides heat and cooling for almost half of all their campus buildings. To learn more about how they work, check the US DOE page explaining heat pump systems including a video on how they work. To determine if a heat pump is right for you the US EPA’s Energy Star website is a good source of additional information when considering purchasing and installing a ground source heat pump.