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.