Austin, San Antonio dominate solar in Texas

Environment Texas' report coverLast week the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center issued a report finding that overwhelmingly two cities, Austin and San Antonio account for the majority of solar installed in Texas and it’s not just a small amount, fully 85 percent of solar in the large, sun-rich state is installed in the two cities.

The “Texas’ solar story is primarily a tale of two cities – San Antonio and Austin – with the rest of the state largely languishing in the shadow,” said Luke Metzger, Director of Environment Texas. “It’s time we reach for the sun and bring clean solar energy to the rooftops of all of Texas’ homes, schools and businesses.” The organization released the report during Texas’ biennial legislative session in an effort to help the legislature consider expanding solar programs.

The report, Reaching for the Sun: How San Antonio and Austin Are Showing that Solar Is a Powerful Energy Option for Texas, found that largely because of policies enacted by their local utilities, San Antonio, with 52.6 megawatts and Austin, with 41.3 megawatts, are the state’s largest markets for solar.

Both San Antonio and Austin have set aggressive goals for solar. In fact, San Antonio’s utility, CPS Energy, has plans to have largest municipally-owned photovoltaic project in the U.S., a 400 megawatt project through a partnership with OCI Solar Power, which is locating manufacturing facilities there. Austin’s utility, Austin Energy has also announced that it plans to go 35 percent renewable by 2020 and to install about 200 megawatts of solar as part of that goal.

Other cities in Texas lag far behind. The report found that the utility with the third largest amount of solar in the state is Oncor with 9.98 megawatts. The utility serves Dallas, Fort Worth and other areas, according to the study.

In the report, the center also cites a recent study by the Texas’ electric grid operator, ERCOT, which showed that solar and wind are the most cost-effective ways to meet the state’s growing electric needs on hot summer days. That study determined that solar and wind were more advantageous for power than even natural gas, according to the center.

To help ensure that happens, Environment Texas said there are a number of pieces of legislation wending their way through the capitol there to expand the amount of solar in the state. Among them are: HB 1094 SB 385, to update Texas’ Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing law; HB 723 to install of 1,500 megawatts of solar and renewable energy by 2022; HB 303 to require a 35 percent renewable portfolio standard with at least 2 percent from solar energy; SB 304 to require homebuilders offer solar energy as a standard option to their customers; and SB 305 to exempt solar installations from state sales tax.

Most pieces of legislation echo those introduced in other states, among them California and Colorado, both of which have much larger solar industries

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