Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Solar-Powered Public Property Bill Backed by Education, Military

Dyess Air Force Base in Abilene, and other government-owned lands could use more solar panels like this one if SB 1586 passes.

A bill that would increase the amount of renewable electricity on publicly-owned land received support from educators, environmentalists and the military at the Capitol Tuesday.

An Army attorney, high school science teacher and an environmental advocate all testified in support of SB 1586, authored by Sen. Jose R. Rodriguez, D-El Paso, at a Senate Business and Commerce Committee hearing.

The bill would allow state-owned land to use up to 10 megawatts of electricity generated by renewable sources, or enough to power about 5,000 homes on average. Currently, publicly-owned land can only use two megawatts.

Grace Blasingame, a science teacher in Pasadena ISD explored solar energy in an engineering class- an exploration that is now known as the PISD Solar Initiative. She says that anything the state can do to offset the district’s $12 million annual electricity bill would be beneficial to taxpayers. She said school districts have unused land purchased for investment projects and future growth that could be used to develop renewable energy.

Stanley Rasmussen, an attorney for the Army Regional Installations, Energy and Environment Office and a representative for the Department of Defense, says the bill could help the military to cut costs of energy while increasing reliability, sustainability and security.“Being able to fly a plane from the U.S. over in Afghanistan — if the power goes out, it jeopardizes that mission,” he says. “We need to look at a variety of ways to improve our energy security here in the United States.”

A fiscal note on the bill says there would be no budget impact on local governments because the bill could be carried out with existing resources.

John W. Fainter, Jr., the president of the Association of Electric Companies of Texas, requested to have a study done on how the renewable energy usage will be monitored and controlled.

Committee Chair Sen. John Carona, R- Dallas, told Sen. Rodriguez that he could work with Fainter to reword the bill.

The committee did not vote on the bill, leaving it pending in committee.

Olivia Gordon is a reporting intern with StateImpact Texas.


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