August 2023 Newsletter

August 4, 2023

August 2023 Newsletter

Empowering Sustainable Communities


A Note from SEEDS New Executive Director Jess Wolk

In June I had the honor of filling the outstanding Olga Trushina’s shoes as the new SEEDS Executive Director. It was about then that the smoke from the Canadian Wildfires began filling the air reaching our corner of the Poconos and beyond. The smoke, the record heat and flooding in the news every day, really brought home the climate crisis we are facing and it made me think. It was more than just sticks and dogs that made early humans successful when they hunted the wooly mammoths. Anthropologists believe the secret to our success as a species is due to our collective ability to communicate, cooperate and organize. This happens through the stories we tell each other, those we pass on and those we choose to believe. But it’s not enough to tell just any story. Let us now tell this story: it is not too late to change the trajectory and speed of our warming planet Earth. And, let us believe there are things we can do and that now is the time we join together in order to adapt and survive in our rapidly changing world. I hope to facilitate our collective uniting toward our cause of sustainable living and doing our part to attack the mammoth problems we face now.  Are you ready?

I also wanted to send out a big thank you to members and donors! SEEDS would not exist without our members, donors and volunteers. You are the life-blood of our organization. This past June we raised $1,000 during the annual NEPA Gives regional day of giving and we continue to receive support from all over the country, gaining new members every week. Our 12th Annual Book Share and Family Fun Fair planning committee volunteers are hard at work for September’s upcoming event held at the Wayne County Fair grounds in collaboration with the Wayne County Public Library. And for all the volunteers who pitched in and supported the organization throughout the pandemic and post-pandemic transition, thank you all!

As we all work together towards a common goal our individual and collective value comes in all forms and sizes. Your support nourishes us as we plow ahead, spreading and deepening our roots in the region.

Do you want to get active? You can support SEEDS in many ways and we want to get to know you! Please reach out to us by contacting


The Jake Burkhardt SEEDS Scholarship

This year, the Jake Burkhardt Scholarship committee of SEEDS selected to support a group of local students enrolled in the Conservation Leadership Academy, part of Lacawac Sanctuary Environmental Summer Camp program.  The Conversation Leadership Academy is a weeklong residential camp for middle and high school students ages 13-17, where participants are immersed in Conservation activities at the beautiful and historic Lacawac Sanctuary and Field Station, and experience hands-on science programs along-side local conservation professionals and resident university researchers.  For more information about Lacawac Sanctuary, see their website.

The Jake Burkhardt Scholarship is made to honor the memory of Michael “Jake” Burkhardt, Western Wayne Class of 2015, who worked with SEEDS as a high school student. He was attending Keystone College majoring in wildlife biology when he was a passenger in a fatal car accident. The scholarship honors the memory of Jake Burkhardt, who loved life, his family, his community, and the environment.


From the Desk of Holly Z.

As a high school intern at this remarkable organization of SEEDS of NEPA since June of 2022, I can now say that this journey has been one of the most informative and eye-opening experiences of my life thus far, allowing me to grow and flourish into a young SEEDS member. My official title is Home Energy Assessment intern and Social Media manager, but I find that these titles are cleared from thought when I am doing my job to complete the mission of energy efficiency and a more sustainable world. From doing something small like writing my introductory article in this newsletter or creating a post for Facebook, to going out to homes for energy assessments or spreading knowledge about sustainability on the radio, this feeling of knowing that I am a small part of a brighter future for our world is a feeling that compares to no other, one that I call the “SEEDS Sparkle.”

The “SEEDS Sparkle” came to me this month at the Homeowners Resource Fair presented by Pike/Wayne Conservation Partnership. Sitting behind the table with the dark green cloth over it and pamphlets being handed out to every local homeowner, it was then that I realized how important this organization was to all of NEPA and beyond. Local homeowners eagerly asked Jess, our new Executive Director, and I ways that they could truly make a change for the betterment of our environment and planet. We explained our services of Solar Assessments and Free Home Energy Assessments, where SEEDS assesses both the exterior and interior of the home for energy efficiency. Along with these services, we explained how over 40,000 books were recycled and saved from landfills during last year’s Annual Book Swap. Homeowners were beyond the definitions of thrilled and exhilarated when they found out about all of the amazing things that SEEDS does. It was at those moments that I felt the “SEEDS Sparkle” and knew that in these times of joy, challenge, and hard work, I was beyond overjoyed that I filled out the internship application and learned such great amounts of information to become an aspiring member of SEEDS of NEPA.


Annual Pike/Wayne Conservation Partnership
Legislative Breakfast

SEEDS Executive Director Jess Wolk was thrilled to attend this year’s annual Legislative Breakfast event on Friday, July 14th at the Wayne Conservation District Library in Honesdale, hosted by the Pike/Wayne Conservation Partnership. The Partnership is an alliance of government, non-government, non-profit and grassroots organizations based in Pike and Wayne Counties. This annual event offers an excellent opportunity to gain insight into relevant conservation issues facing our region and forge new collaborations on natural resource conservation, sustainable communities and citizen involvement in community planning.

We met with Pike and Wayne County Commissioners Tony Waldron and Jocelyn Cramer; PA State Senators Lisa Baker and Rosemary Brown; spokespersons from PA House of Representatives Jonathon Fritz and Joseph Adams, as well as from Congressman Matt Cartright’s offices. We lobbied for the Solar for Schools legislation passing in the Senate and the incorporation of the bill into the state budget. The benefits of this legislation include: saving schools money through reduced energy bills; energy-independence that avoids the impacts of market-based price fluctuations; preparing students for careers in the solar industry with on-site experiences; and positioning Pennsylvania as a clean-energy leader.

We want to give a giant shout-out to State Senator Rosemary Brown, who is spearheading the most recent drive to move forward with a Community Solar bill in the state legislature. Thank you, Senator Brown, for your work towards building access to renewable sources of energy for more Pennsylvanians!

What can you do to support the sustainability issues important to you? Make your voice heard!  Get in touch with your elected officials and ask them to:

  • Promote and invest in Solar for Schools programs at the local, state and federal levels.
  • Pass HB1032, The Solar for Schools Grant Program) in the PA State Senate.
  • Expand Career and Technical Education (CTE) training for in-demand jobs in renewable energy
  • Move forward with the Community Solar bill.

Find contact information for the legislators that participated in the breakfast here:
Congressman Matt Cartwright, Pennsylvania’s 8th Congressional District, Democrat; Pennsylvania State Senator Rosemary M. Brown,Senate District 40, Republican; Pennsylvania State Senator Lisa Baker, Senate District 20,  Republican; Pennsylvania House of Representatives Jonathon Fritz, District 111, Republican; Pennsylvania House of Representatives Joseph Adams, District 139, Republican; Pike County CommissionersWayne County Commissioners.

by Jack Barnett

Ready or not, solar is coming 

Several people have recently asked why so many “large” solar arrays are being proposed in Pennsylvania—such as the one that was denied its permit last month and covered in the July 13 River Reporter.

As is often the situation, there are multiple reasons, and timing is everything.

First, how large are we talking? Locally, I’m not seeing nearly as large arrays as in other places, especially in western states. Locations there often have hundreds or thousands of acres of solar panels. That is rare in PA.

The PA Public Utility Commission (PUC) database lists the state’s largest array at just over 22 megawatts (MW) or about 170 acres. That and the second largest array, both in Franklin County, are part of Penn State University’s (PSU) arrangement that together with a third array occupies a total of 500 acres and currently provides 25 percent of the electricity used at their 23 campuses statewide.

These are also great examples of “agrivoltaics,” where the land is dual use, with sheep grazing and pollinator-friendly native plantings growing among the solar panels.

Pennsylvania is late to solar energy
PA has few incentives for solar energy on its books, especially compared to New York or New Jersey, where residential, commercial and larger solar (sometimes called “grid-scale”) arrays are common, and permit applications or denials are rarely newsworthy. As of May 2021, PA met its goal of 0.5 percent solar electricity in annual retail sales by utilities, but has not further updated its portfolio goals (officially named the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, or AEPS, a law originally passed in 2004).

Our neighboring states (except for Ohio and West Virginia) have renewable energy goals of 50 percent or more, along with solar economic incentives to get there.

PA’s limited solar incentives, plus our history of relatively cheap electricity, have kept most solar developers working, and investing, elsewhere. Electricity is the product from a solar array, and the more valuable that product, the more desirable it is to invest in an expensive solar array construction project, whether you’re a homeowner or a developer.

However since 2021:
-PA’s average retail electricity price increased by more than 70 percent during 2022;
-The PA PUC, under the order of the PA Supreme Court, removed a restriction (which was not in the text of the AEPS) that had previously limited the size of net-metered solar arrays to no larger than needed to produce just 110 percent of their annual electricity usage;
-Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (read more at, which increased and extended the federal tax incentives for solar installations and other renewable energy investments;
-PPL (and some other utilities) added a rebate for commercial solar arrays that reduce summer peak demand (when wholesale electricity is their highest cost);
-PA Gov. Josh Shapiro was elected on a campaign platform to increase the state’s solar goal to at least 10 percent (and 30 percent across all renewables); and
-The bipartisan “Community Solar” legislation (roughly similar to what New York has had since 2015) has been introduced in both the PA Senate and House, though no bill has yet been passed. These shared solar arrays will be limited in size, between 5 and 20 MW depending on the specific bill.

All these send positive signals that solar is primed and ready to go in PA.

Solar developers are starting to move
In Wayne County (where I’m most aware), recent permit applications for larger solar arrays are most often for around 3 to 5 MW, an economic sweet spot under PA’s commercial net-metering.

A typical 3 MW (of AC output, or roughly 4 MW in panel-capacity DC) ground-mounted solar array in our area will face almost directly south, with no trees, steep hillside or other shading to its south or on either side. It will occupy approximately 20 acres of open land.

The project will have areas for stormwater runoff retention as needed, boundary setbacks and landscaping if required by local zoning rules, fences for security, etc.

I’m aware of a 3 MW solar project in Hawley Borough that was approved, but the developer later canceled due to PPL grid upgrade costs.

There is one in Damascus Township that received its zoning approval, one currently seeking a permit near Sterling, plus several others where landowners have already signed a lease, an option to lease or are currently considering proposed leases from various developers.

According to a recent Penn State Extension (PSE) webinar, a typical 25- to 30-year lease to a solar developer includes annual payments to the landowner between $300 to $2,800 per acre (but I’ve only heard of $800 to $1,400 locally).

A developer might offer a higher amount in that range if the land has perfect slope and orientation, is particularly easy for construction activities, or where a utility substation or high-grade grid connection is nearby.

Some offers might include an upfront payment just for signing the lease option, but that should be taken only with careful consideration.

Both PSE and local nonprofit SEEDS (Sustainable Energy Education and Development Support) strongly recommend engaging a lawyer for an in-depth legal review prior to signing any long-term lease agreement.

Regulations slow the progress
In any case, those annual lease payments will only start after all permits are approved and construction begins. So permit approvals are critical both to the developer and the landowner. And for those deeply concerned about reducing climate change, the sooner renewable energy replaces fossil fuels the better.
In my previous article (read it at, I touched on the regulations and rules that solar arrays must comply with.

For a typical 3 MW or 20-acre solar array, these include:
-electrical, fire and safety codes;
-limits on equipment radio frequency emissions;
-additional equipment and safety standards required for utility interconnection;
-stormwater runoff and erosion controls, both during construction and ongoing operations;
-waterway and wetland disturbance mitigation (if present);
-rules on worker pay and training, required to qualify for the new federal tax incentives;
-avoiding impacts to any PA endangered species (e.g., northern long-eared bats) or PA historical resources (e.g., archaeology sites);
-PennDOT rules for public road access (or local ones, if not located on a state road);
-local municipality land use, noise, dust, lighting and zoning rules (if in place);
-registration with the PUC;
-property tax laws (which increase tax revenues for our schools and local governments);
-plus compliance with deed restrictions and lease terms (note: landowners can require return of the land at lease termination to its pre-construction conditions with a bond or stringent penalties otherwise).

Projects on the slow boil
Approvals can take a long time, especially if different agencies require multiple iterations of the site plan. To speed things along, project engineers (especially those not familiar with PA permitting) should request a pre-application meeting with the local zoning/code officer.

All construction projects with earth disturbance of more than an acre require a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit, which in PA is delegated to the Department of Environmental Protection, but starts by filing an application with the county’s conservation district office.
The Wayne County Conservation District can facilitate and also strongly encourages a pre-application meeting with project engineers; call 570/253-0930.

Full approval by all agencies and the utility could still take a year or more. In fact, for interconnection approval to higher-capacity transmission lines (typical in PA when an array is larger than 5 MW), the current queue as reported by PJM—the mid-Atlantic regional transmission operator—has a wait time longer than two years.

When connecting to a local utility, an engineering study is usually done to determine what grid upgrades might be needed, and then the cost estimation for that will take more time and must be paid by the solar developer.

At the local level, many municipalities have not updated their land use or zoning ordinances to easily deal with where or how multi-acre solar arrays can be located. Applications therefore typically require multiple public hearings prior to approval (or denial). Damascus Township, which passed its solar ordinance in 2017, has declared a nine-month moratorium, as of June 19, on all solar zoning permits for any size array both residential and commercial, while they consider changes to those rules. More potential delays.

I’m a solar advocate, but I’m not for “all out” solar development at the cost of unfair treatment of landowners, harm to the local community or to the environment. Solar energy production needs to grow faster if we’re to limit further climate impacts, but it must be done right and equitably.

Some restrictions are clearly important, such as for public safety, stormwater runoff, or visibility from the Delaware River—part of the Wild and Scenic River system. But some recently proposed new restrictions on solar from Harrisburg, and locally too, are clearly political grandstanding or biased by other energy industries and counter-interests.

Solar energy is coming 
Solar will come to PA in many forms and sizes, on residential and commercial rooftops, ground mounts in backyards, on brownfields and abandoned mine lands, on multi-acre “solar farms” and even larger grid-scale arrays. PSU has additional solar projects in process that are intended to provide 100 percent of their statewide electricity needs.

PA’s incentives, as well as state and local rules and restrictions, will impact where, how much and how fast the benefits of solar arrive here. Look across the river at the benefits New York and New Jersey are getting from their solar investments. It’s time to do the right thing for local well-paid “green” jobs, PA landowners, community residents and the world.

Correction: The largest solar listed by the PUC is also owned by Lighsource BP, but is instead used to provide electricity to SEPTA, and not PSU.

Jack Barnett is a retired electrical engineer and is now a volunteer solar energy and sustainable living advocate on the board of SEEDS of Northeastern PA. He is also a co-founder of the Clean Energy Cooperative, an all-volunteer mission-oriented small-scale solar developer based in Honesdale, PA.

Have questions about solar energy? Send them to and Jack will attempt to answer your questions in future Sustainability articles.


Energy Community Tax Credit Bonus Increases

Check out this IRS Map updated to reflect the most recent Energy Community Tax Credit Bonuses.  In it’s most recent update, Wayne County, PA qualifies as an “Energy Community” for the 2023 until the next update in May of 2024.  This means that the federal solar tax credit, established under the Inflation Reduction Act to encourage the growth and expansion of renewable sources of energy, is worth 40% instead of 30% until the next update, determined by project in-service date.  Note that this bonus applies to commercial installations, which fall under section 48.  Read the full explanation and interact with the map here.


Do you have any #SEEDSGoodNews stories to share with the SEEDS community? Send them to us at or tag us on social media!  They can be local stories from your community, or stories from around the world–anything to celebrate and spread the word about the progress of energy efficiency, renewable energy or sustainable living wherever you hear about it!

What’s Next

2023 Book Share and Family Fun Fair

SEEDS is working on the 12th Annual Book Share and Family Fun Fair in collaboration with the Wayne County Public Library.  Previously called the Book Swap, last year we kept over 40,000 books out of landfills.  We are looking for sponsors of the event this year as well as volunteers to help in all aspects of set up, organization, event support and break down.

Contact us at to join us!

If you are not a member of SEEDS, please consider joining us today!
You can use this link to share our membership page with others: 
You will continue to receive our newsletters, invitations to our educational forums and other events. Members are eligible for free solar evaluations, have voting rights at our annual meeting, and help shape our programs and initiatives.  For more information visit our website at