Pennsylvania Solar Manual
In 1993, while working for the Pennsylvania Energy Office, 7group partner Marcus Sheffer was the primary author of the Pennsylvania Solar Manual. The Manual was written in response to the oft heard comment that solar energy doesn’t work in a cold, cloudy state like Pennsylvania. The purpose of the Manual was to introduce the public to solar strategies and provide case studies of solar projects from around the Commonwealth. In 2006 7group was hired by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to update the Solar Manual.
The sun is our ultimate source of energy. Our food, our fuel, and our climate all originate in the power of sunlight.
Ninety-three million miles away, a thermonuclear fusion reaction transforms hydrogen into helium, releasing energy in the process. This energy is created in the center of the sun and carried outward by convective currents. Solar radiation emanates from the surface and makes its way to the Earth in the form of light. Enough solar radiation reaches the Earth’s surface in a year to supply 1,000 times more energy than was produced by the burning of all fossil fuels during that same year. All that is left to do is for us to take advantage of it.
During the past century the popularity of solar energy systems has waxed and waned with conventional fuel prices, government support and public interest. In the first half of this century and again in the 1970s and early ’80s, solar enjoyed tremendous popularity. Over the past 30 years solar technology has continued to advance in efficiency and affordability. These recent advances, continued tension in the Middle East, and an increasing emphasis on the quality of our environment have combined to make solar energy a practical alternative to conventional sources of energy in many situations.
A renewed commitment to solar energy can foster local industry and create jobs. Since solar energy is a renewable and indigenous resource, money spent on it is not exported. Jobs are created locally, and the dollars remain in the community. The widespread application of solar energy and energy efficiency could be used to stimulate our economy. Solar and other sources of renewable energy offer the promise of a clean, reliable, and homegrown energy supply that can benefit our economy and the environment. Solar energy is versatile. It can provide heat, light, cooling, and electricity. Solar energy can also be utilized indirectly to grow plants that can be converted to fuel.
Pennsylvania’s moderately temperate climate is often cloudy and is not ideal for the collection of solar energy. However, the numerous exciting projects displayed in this manual demonstrate that solar energy is a practical source of energy today, not just in the future. These projects represent but a small fraction of the thousands of solar energy systems installed throughout the state. Each project clearly demonstrates that when solar applications utilize technology appropriate to our climate, solar energy works safely, reliably, economically, and cleanly even in a sometimes cold and often cloudy state like Pennsylvania.