The state of Texas has been a national leader in embracing solar technology for quite some time, and now its capital city is furthering its legacy with an ambitious new endeavor.
In a city council session this past December, Austin approved a new solar energy plan to take effect over the next 10 years. One of the biggest developments to come out of the meeting is that Austin Energy’s new solar power goal is 950 megawatts (MW) by 2025. This target is expected to be achieved through a breakdown of 750 MW of utility-scale solar in Texas’ isolated grid, and an additional 200 MW within Austin city limits. Of this locally-owned energy, 100 MW should be customer-owned PV and 70 MW should be put online by the year 2020.
The new plan is the result of several months of negotiations between Austin Energy, City Council, the Sierra Club, and multiple environmental organizations. Through the initiative, Austin is expected to curb carbon emissions by 75 to 80 percent and have the city derive 55 percent of its power through clean energy by the year 2025. Additionally, Austin Energy will be required to invest in energy storage technology like thermal storage and batteries.
The energy plan also included agreements to retire Austin Energy’s coal-fired Fayette Power Plant in 2022 and discontinue the steam units at their Decker natural gas plant in 2018 and replace them with more efficient technology (an earlier version of the plan called for phasing out Decker altogether).
This story may come as a surprise to other areas of the country who have an oil-centric view of Texas in their minds, but the solar energy plan has received strong public support from residents of the Lone Star State. Actually, Texas is one of the more forward-thinking states when it comes to renewable energy, as it offers some of the country’s lowest prices in small-scale solar installations and set a new record for itself on March 26 last year when nearly a third of the state’s electricity that day was generated by wind. Austin isn’t the only city going green; San Antonio is in the process of building 400 MW of solar PV in partnership with OCI Solar Power.
Austin’s energy plan has exciting implications for the city and the future of solar in Texas. We’re excited to see these changes roll out over the next few years and bring us into a brighter, greener future.