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Another story about solar energy in Texas

They keep writing them, I’ll keep blogging about them.

Dallas renewable energy investor Panda Power Funds is developing one of the country’s largest solar power plants in sunny New Jersey. Not Texas.

And Texas’ second-largest power generator, NRG Energy, is investing in the world’s largest solar thermal power plant in California. Not Texas.

Texas is No. 9 among states when it comes to the amount of sunlight that could be used to make electricity. But the state ranks 16th in the amount of solar electric generating capacity actually installed. New Jersey is No. 2; California is No. 1.

“It’s really a shame in Texas. We’ve got good sunlight. It’s really a shame that we don’t have a more aggressive solar program,” said Panda’s managing director of development, Ralph Killian.

Solar producers say Texas will fall behind economically without an aggressive push into solar energy. They blame state leaders for not providing the financial backing to attract the industry to Texas. And they hope a new legislative session beginning in January will create those incentives.

Critics say incentives are unnecessary and wasteful. They say Texans benefit from lower prices for electricity generated with other fuels.

Most of what’s in here is familiar stuff. I too hope that this Lege will do something to create incentives for more solar (and wind and other forms of renewable) energy, but I don’t actually believe it will happen. One thing in the story I did not know:

NRG negotiated with the city of Houston to build a solar plant and sell the power to the city. Talks unraveled over a law banning the city from committing to a multiple-year contract.

“That’s how the city has to do business,” said Houston spokeswoman Janice Evans. “There’s no way within the city’s annual funding that you can do a 25-year contract.”

But NRG couldn’t risk having the contract dropped one year, without enough revenue to pay for the equipment.

I’d blogged about this before, but the last word I had was that the talks had hit a snag, not that they’d completely fallen apart. Bummer. I totally understand the city’s position on this, but it sure seems like there ought to be a way around that. Maybe one way the Lege could act would be to provide some kind of insurance for clean energy developers that want to engage in this kind of long term deal with cities. I’m just thinking out loud here, I don’t know what that might look like, and besides it’s surely a non-starter in this slash and burn session to come. I’m just saying that there ought to be a way for cities to do this sort of thing, and that if there is it will need to come from a higher level of government, such as the state.

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2 Comments

  1. Peter Wang says:

    A 25 year contract is unreasonable, because in 25 years, we expect electricity from solar to be much less expensive per megawatt-hour. Imagine if you’d committed to use each computer for 10 – 15 years before replacing it. What a world of hurt. NRG wasn’t properly capitalizing that project obviously. They wanted to push the risk onto the City. No thank you!

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