Recently, the city of Austin raised its solar power goal from 200 MW by 2020 to 950 MW by 2025. 200 MW of this solar power will be operating within Austin’s city limits and 750 MW will be utility-scale solar. Actually, the goal for Austin is at least 950 MW.
For the 200 MW portion — the solar within city limits — half has to be from customers, meaning residents or building owners with their own solar power PV systems. This might sound like an odd requirement, but it isn’t. If homeowners have their own solar systems, one might say there is more balance in the energy mix.
Also, solar power can be a good long-term investment for homeowners. Over the life of the system, a homeowner can often save $20,000 or more, depending on a number of variables.
Another exciting stipulation for the 200 MW of within-city solar power, 70 MW must be operational by 2020. So, in just five years, the city of Austin could have another 70 MW of solar power up and running.
Currently, the city gets a portion of its electricity from two fossil fuel plants that will be phased out. Steam units at the 927 MW Decker natural gas power plant will be retired by 2018. The Fayette 602 MW coal power plant will begin to retire in 2022, so it is important that new clean electricity replace these two sources.
The fact that the state capital of Texas is shifting away from fossil fuels and towards clean, renewable energy would seem to indicate a significant societal change is taking place.
Austin is well known in the southwest as a key cultural center, so surely its move to more renewable energy will generate press and serve as something as an example to the region.
Renewable energy is already part of the electricity mix for Austin Energy. About 850 MW of wind farms in West and South Texas provide electricity to the utility.
“This plan reflects the support not only of City Council and Austin Energy, but also the thousands of citizens who organized, called and emailed demanding groundbreaking and affordable action to combat climate disruption,” explained Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter Acting Director Cyrus Reed.
Once implemented, the 950 MW of solar power is expected to reduce carbon emissions from electricity production by about 75–80%.
If it seems unlikely for Austin to become a national leader in clean energy it must be noted that Whole Foods also started there. In many respects, clean energy is very much in synch with the local culture. A solar Austin seems more fitting for the local culture than a fossil fuel one does.
Also, let’s not forget that Austin Energy struck a deal for record-low solar power from Recurrent Energy earlier this year, just 5¢/kWh!