Smart Talk

Smart Talk is a daily, live, interactive program featuring conversations with newsmakers and experts in a variety of fields and exploring a wide range of issues and ideas, including the economy, politics, health care, education, culture, and the environment.  Smart Talk airs live every week day at 9 a.m. on WITF’s 89.5 and 93.3.

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Host: Scott LaMar

DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell / The Words of William Penn

Written by Rich Copeland - Producer, WITF's Smart Talk | Mar 7, 2017 8:00 PM
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What to look for on Smart Talk - Wednesday, March 8, 2017:

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection is moving forward with a 30 month program to kick-start a major solar energy initiative called "Finding Pennsylvania's Solar Future."

Though less than 1% of the state's energy generation is derived from solar, DEP Acting Secretary Patrick McDonnell wants to use this to "lead in solar energy development" and would like to "position the Commonwealth as a solar energy leader by 2030."

The first stakeholder's meeting took place in Harrisburg last week; it included "state and local government leaders, consumer advocates, utility and business leaders, academics, solar industry experts, and others interested in solar energy."


Patrick McDonnell - Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Environmental Protections

Acting DEP Secretary McDonnell will join Smart Talk in studio to discuss the $550,000 program, funded by the US Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative and other issues involving energy and the environment of Pennsylvania.

Also, in March of 1681, King Charles II of England granted a charter for a large tract of land to William Penn.  The king insisted on naming the land for the young man raised in a family with a deep military heritage.  Penn, who by then had converted to Quakerism, was aghast at the hubris associated with the name, and expressed his concern in a letter to a close friend.

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William Penn

Fast forward 336 years to 2017, when officials from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania stumbled upon this very letter.  It gives great insight to the very early days of our Commonwealth's development and a glimpse into the ethos of our state's namesake.

Beth Twiss Houting, Senior Director of Programs and Services at the Historical Society, was one of the people who discovered this artifact, and she will join Smart Talk to talk about the find and how it helps our historical perspective of William Penn and the origins of Pennsylvania.


- What lessons have been learned about the impact on the local solar industry from the comings and goings of incentives associated with the PA Sunshine Grant program?  I have friends in the solar business who said this boom and bust was hard on them and may have favored out of state firms.                                                                                                                                    - Matt, Carlisle

I had heard that there is proposed legislation that will somehow prohibit or greatly limit farms and homeowners from hooking solar arrays into the grid.  Those with existing systems would not be affected.  Any truth to this?  I am a current green energy provider through the solar array on my cabin roof.                                                                                                                                                 - Lisa

- We have a 10K solar array, installed in 2010. At the time, SRECs were in the range of $200-300 each. Now, as many states are closed to outside producers and SRECs are abundant, the SRECs are worth less then $10. We no longer have an expectation of a reasonable payback.

In addition, several state legislatures are seeking to roll back net metering. Do you fear that these forces compete with your goals of greatly increased solar production?

And do you think PA will roll back net metering?                                                 - Phil

Pa's support for renewable energy is pathetic.  I installed a 21.1 kW solar array on my barn roof and went online in November 2010.  I have generated over 179 megawatts to date and have received less that $3,000 in SREC payments.  My last check for 11 SRECS came 2 days ago and was for $40. (My aggregator/broker takes $10 per SREC because the payments in PA are so low.)                                                                     My friend in Delaware has a 6 kW system on his beach house and gets $500 per year for his SREC's per year because Delaware is solar friendly.  PA allows SREC's to be sold here from any other state (Delaware does not) and our legislature keeps the utility renewable requirement so low that our market for SREC's will always be low priced.  My system cost me $130,000 and will never pay for itself at these rates of reimbursement.                                                                                        -  Rich, Lancaster

The Secretary mentions "responsible use" - how do you square this with the track record for oil & gas industry for leaks and incidents?   How do other conservative states have better regulations e.g. Colorado?                                                                          - Nancy Harkins - West Chester

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