Solar power plant set for S.Phila.

April 29, 2008 3:22:49 PM PDT
It's not always sunny in Philadelphia, but the city is getting a solar power plant. Exelon Generation Co., a unit of Exelon Corp. in Chicago, is joining forces with Epuron LLC to build, operate and sell energy from the plant in South Philadelphia.

At a cost of $8 million to $12 million, the 1- to 1.4-megawatt solar power plant will be built on six to eight acres of brownfields - or idle, contaminated land. About 6,000 to 8,000 solar photovoltaic panels will generate enough juice to power 200 homes a year.

The plant will break ground in the third quarter and should be up and running by year's end. Epuron will build the plant and Exelon will buy the electricity for release to the grid.

Kathleen McGinty, secretary of the state Department of Environmental Protection, said Pennsylvania must find alternatives as energy prices keep escalating.

"It's not just oil," she said at a Tuesday news conference announcing the plant. "The price of electricity is going through the roof."

Exelon, the parent company of Philadelphia electric utility Peco Energy, and Epuron, a unit of Conergy AG of Germany, are also collaborating on a $20 million solar energy plant in Falls Township, Bucks County - the fourth largest facility in the country. It will have 16,500 solar panels and power 400 homes. The project broke ground in March.

Arndt Lutz, Epuron's managing director, called on the state Senate to support Gov. Ed Rendell's energy plan. While the House of Representatives passed a version of his energy bill in February, the Senate wanted to spend and borrow less. It passed its own bill in December.

Mayor Michael Nutter said Philadelphia will receive $200,000 after recently being named a "Solar American City" by the U.S.

Department of Energy. Philadelphia is one of 25 cities with the designation, which is aimed at jump-starting solar power projects and improving the technology.

"It's time to invest in renewable energy," the mayor said.

The site of the new solar plant is in the Philadelphia Navy Yard.

The city has been enticing industrial, commercial, research and military companies to the shipyard since it closed in 1996. The 1,200-acre site in South Philadelphia is home to a commercial shipyard and corporate offices, plus a small fleet of retired Navy ships.