08 Nov Texas Has Double the Solar Potential of Other States – Lacks Solar-Friendly Policies
Compared to most states, Texas’s has an unlimited supply of solar energy. In fact, the state ranks number one in the United States for it high levels of direct solar radiation—200 days of sunshine a year. The amount of the available solar energy provides suitable condition for photovoltaic (PV) systems and utility-scale solar concentrated solar power installations, according to the State Energy Conservation Office (SECO).
In addition to the sunshine, Texas has the research institution and manufacturing base necessary to become a forerunner in the development of solar energy and to compete in the global market. The problem has to do with the difficulty in getting legislation passed to energize the solar industry.
Accenting the lack of action by the state’s leadership on solar polices, Texas has the lowest installation price for residential solar installation—systems with 10 kilowatts or less, at $3.90 per watt. The national average price in 2012 was $5.30 per watt.
According to a report released by the Environment America Research & Policy Center– “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States,” Texas ranks thirteenth in the nation for per capita solar installations. The state had 139 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity at the end of 2012. With strong local initiatives, the cities of Austin and San Antonio account for 85 percent of the state’s solar capacity.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) makes the following observations about the Texas solar industry:
- Add up all usable land and rooftop space, Texas has twice the solar potential of any other state.
- The state has more than 280 companies throughout the solar value chain.
- The Texas solar industry employs more than 3,200 workers.
- In 2012, Texas increased its solar capacity by 51 MW, which ranks 12th among states.
- The state has enough solar capacity to power 12,300 homes.
- In 2012, $75 million was invested to install solar panels on homes and businesses—a 29 percent increase over 2011.
The SEIA, which serves as a national trade association for solar in the United States, actively work in Texas and other states to promote the merits of solar power. Currently, the SEIA uses the following approach in it efforts to increase Texas’ solar capacity:
1) To educate Texas decision makers and politicians on “sound solar policies’ and focus on proposing legislation that will create an environment for the development of the Texas solar electricity market.
2) Take part in discussions and proceedings at bodies, such as Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) and the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUCT) to support and defend solar issues that come before these entities.
3) Support polices designed to promote the building of more solar capacity to enhance the reliability and capability of the Texas electricity market.
The solar industry believe that a well-thought out state policy would abolish market barriers and help the state realize benefits from its most abundant and clean natural resource—the sun, to help relieve the state’s “energy-crunch,” as demand exceeds the available supply.
The Solar Energy Industries Association (“SEIA”) and the Energy Foundation commissioned the Brattle Group to assess the effects of increasing solar photovoltaic electricity generation. The report titled, The Potential Impact of Solar PV on Electricity Markets in Texas,” estimates that the total potential cost savings for electricity customers, based on 2011 electricity usage data, would be about $520 million.