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Longview ranks 22nd for solar in Texas

Thursday, February 14, 2013 - 8:45pm

With a total of 162 kilowatts (kW) of installed solar, Longview ranks 22nd in the state according to a new Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report. The report release comes as the Legislature considers new programs to expand solar to the rest of the state.

“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.”

According to the report, Reaching for the Sun: How San Antonio and Austin Are Showing that Solar Is a Powerful Energy Option for Texas, the municipally owned utilities in San Antonio and Austin have supported the installation of four times more solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity than the rest of Texas combined or 85 percent of the state total. CPS Energy, which serves San Antonio and surrounding areas, reports solar energy installations of 52.6 megawatts (MW) while Austin Energy reports 41.3 MW. Oncor, the utility serving Waco, Dallas, Fort Worth and other areas, is a distant third with 9.89 MW. On the basis of installed solar energy per customer account, Austin Energy has 0.099 kW per account, CPS energy 0.073 kw, and El Paso Electric takes third with 0.005 kW. The report credits San Antonio and Austin’s strong policies that encourage solar power on residences and businesses, and in utility-scale installations.

Environment Texas stressed that greater use of solar energy can help reduce the need for coal and natural gas power plants that cause air pollution, contribute to global warming, and use excessive amounts of precious water for cooling. The group also cited a recent study by the operator of Texas’ electricity grid (ERCOT) which shows that the most cost-effective way to meet the state’s growing need for electricity on the hottest summer days is to add solar and wind energy generating capacity rather than natural gas-fired power plants.

Texas has the best solar energy potential in the nation. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Texas has the potential to generate more than 100 times our current electric use from solar power. But despite the leadership of San Antonio and Austin, Texas ranks just 13th in the nation for installed solar.

Environment Texas noted several bills filed in the Legislature which could help expand the state’s use of solar energy:

· HB 1094 (Keffer) and SB 385 (Carona) which would update Texas’ Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing law to enable lenders to offer commercial and residential property owners a secure, long-term financing option for solar PV systems and other energy efficiency and water conservation improvements.

· HB 723 (Anchia) would require the installation of 1500 megawatts of solar and other sources of renewable energy by the year 2022

· HB 303 (Rodriguez) would require 35 percent of Texas’ electricity come from renewable sources by 2020, including at least 2 percent from solar energy

· SB 304 (Rodriguez) would require homebuilders offer solar energy as a standard option to their customers

· SB 305 (Rodriguez) would exempt solar installations from the state sales tax

Environment Texas also recommended the Legislature establish a fund to help schools install solar and adopt statewide standards to ensure that homeowners and small businesses are fairly compensated for the excess solar electricity they generate and supply to the grid.

“We can have solar power on every roof on your block, on your office, atop your local schools, and on nearby retail outlets, generating clean energy to power our lives and repower our economy,” concluded Metzger.

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