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Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

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Solar Energy Panels in Austin, Texas.

Texas Solar Power

Background

Solar power, or photovoltaic power, is an inexhaustible energy source that converts sunlight into electricity. Thirty years ago, solar power was an experimental power source. Today, lower production costs, greater dependability and ease of use have led to a wider acceptance of solar technology, making it a major energy source across the nation.

In Texas, solar power is used for a variety of purposes including, powering homes, school crosswalk warning signs and water pumping systems. Texas is ranked first in solar energy potential according to the State Energy Conversation Office (SECO) but is currently only tenth in solar energy production.

With a mostly sunny climate, renewable energy companies are looking at Texas as the next frontier for solar energy production. Despite the state’s tremendous potential for solar power, there are few state wide incentives to draw in more green companies. In recent years numerous bills have been filed in the legislature to push for new incentives to energize the industry but very few have passed. A recent bill proposed a statewide rebate for solar projects. That initiative would have been funded by additional charges on electric bills, including a $1 or $2 per month fee for residential ratepayers. Opponents to the legislation claimed it was unfair for electricity customers to pay the surcharge when only customers that participate in the rebate program would have benefited.

A now defunct solar project proposed for Marfa, Texas strongly divided the community between those who commended the prospect of new jobs and tax revenue in the state and those who worried that large solar satellites would spoil the desert landscape.

Solar power advocates point to the potential for job growth in Texas, as new solar projects continue to pop up across the state. A 2010 National Solar Jobs Census ranks Texas third among states, with an estimated 6,400 solar jobs at 170 companies.

Blue Wing Farm in San Antonio is the largest solar farm in Texas. The 140-acre site was built in 2010 and generates enough energy to power 1,800 homes.

Latest Posts

Sheep Keeping Grass Under Control At OCI Solar “Farm” In San Antonio

From Texas Public Radio:  OCI Solar Power thought of an idea that leaders there say is sheer genius. They’ve put sheep to work on the grounds of a solar farm on the far northeast side to keep the grass cut. As solar panels soak up plenty of hot Texas sunshine, there’s plenty landscaping work to [...]

Despite Obstacles, Solar Gains Ground in Texas

From Marfa Public Radio:  This week we have examined the opportunity and challenge for solar power in Texas. There are no state mandates or incentives for solar. And the head of the Public Utilities Commission says Congress should end solar’s 30 per cent federal tax credit.  Despite that landscape solar is breaking through in parts of Texas, providing models that [...]

Small-Scale Solar Energy Projects take Advantage of Abundant Sunlight in West Texas

From Marfa Public Radio:  Continuing their weeklong series on the future of solar power in West Texas, Marfa Public Radio takes a look at small-scale solar projects around the Big Bend region: The Big Bend region is ranching country. Miles of barbed-wire fences, cows clustered in the distance, and windmills on the horizon. Those windmills, of [...]

As Solar Grows in Texas, Border City Provides a Model

From Marfa Public Radio: For most of its life, the small border city of Presidio, Texas has been on the edge of the electric grid. This rugged part of West Texas has seen a major upgrade of its transmission lines over the past five years, but Presidio’s Economic Development Director Brad Newton says before that, it [...]

Texas’ Solar Challenge: Lessons Learned From Arizona, California

From Fronteras:  MARFA, Texas — Texas has been called an energy superpower. Fracking technology is allowing Texas producers to extract vast amounts of oil and natural that were once out of reach. The state pumps more natural gas that any other. And it leads the country in wind energy. But Texas ranks eighth in solar power. Three attempts by [...]

Largest Single Solar Plant in the State Planned for West Texas

From KRTS Marfa Public Radio: A California company has won a contract to build a 150-megawatt solar plant in West Texas. It would be the largest single plant built in the state so far, second only to the 400 mw system of plants planned for San Antonio. San Francisco-based Recurrent Energy isn’t saying where exactly it will build the plant. CEO [...]

Austin’s Energy Mix Just Got Much Sunnier

From KUT News:  Austin Energy will soon be getting more of its power from the sun. The city-owned electric utility has signed a deal, announced today, with a San Francisco-based firm to build the single-largest solar facility in Texas by 2016. Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, Recurrent Energy will build a 150-megawatt solar farm in [...]

Solar Comes to the Super Bowl

Sunday’s big game will be notable for being the first “Mass Transit” Super Bowl: you can’t take a cab or a limo, and parking passes are extremely limited and expensive. If you want to get to the game, you’re likely going to be taking a train or the bus. It’s also a greener super bowl [...]

How One Austin Church Could Lead to More Urban Solar Power

The promise of harnessing the power of the sun and turning it into renewable energy has attracted countless businesses, governments and environmental groups. But it might be a church here in Austin that ends up bringing one of the next breakthroughs in solar technology. To understand the scope of this project, it helps to know [...]

Report: Solar Can Cut Summer Peak Power Demand in Half in Texas

Rooftop solar panels can result in significant power savings for homes in Texas during the summer, according to new research from the Pecan Street Research Institute. And by doing so, it could help lessen the strain on the Texas electric grid. The Pecan Street Research Institute is a collection of energy-efficient, innovative homes (many with solar [...]

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