With a growing population and economy, our state has reached a critical point for securing our energy needs for the future, and Texas has taken steps to minimize the amount of disruption in the availability of energy with the explosive growth of gas drilling. The Barnett Shale, which underlies 17 counties in North Texas, is thought by many to contain the largest producible reserves of onshore natural gas in the country. Texas is also leading the nation in wind power generation, producing approximately 10% of the state’s needs from that renewable source of energy.
However, we have one of the greatest available sources of energy at our fingertips, and one that is becoming more critical in maintaining our electrical reliability in the years ahead: the SUN. Our state has been identified as having the highest potential for both urban and rural utility-scale solar photovoltaic (PV) development, an amazing 154 gigawatt and 20,000 gigawatt power capacity, respectively. And even more significant for individuals - it is estimated that there is 60 gigawatts of distributed renewable generation potential from residential and business rooftops! This is more compelling when one factors in how water-intensive our energy production is from non-renewable sources such as gas and oil. Hydraulic fracturing of a typical deep shale natural gas or oil well requires 4.5 million gallons, or the amount that is consumed in New York City in 6 minutes. As North Texas continues to face restrictions in the availability of water for the foreseeable future, taking steps now to increase the area’s PV footprint will pay off in tremendous dividends in the future.
To do this, we are encouraging all residents in the area to call on the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to fully implement the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The RPS is a mandate from the Texas Legislature in 2005 to direct the PUC to develop 500 megawatt of non-wind renewable energy by 2015, which, to date, has not been addressed. In 2012, Texas surpassed 10,000 megawatts of wind generated energy, while solar energy production in the state continues to lag, at just slightly above 100 megawatts. Contrast Texas with Germany, which currently has a solar PV power capacity of 25 gigawatts (25,000 megawatts). For a country that is half the size of the Lone Star State and only receives 1/4th of the solar radiation we receive in North Texas, this is quite impressive.
This year, the Plano Solar Advocates are encouraging all in our community to reach out to our legislators to increase our solar investment in the state. Talking points and an example letter to share with your legislator are available at the Texas Solar Energy Society website – see Solar and the 83rd Legislature (http://www.txses.org/solar/content/solar-and-83rd-legislature). A brief letter to your legislator will send a positive message that Texans support policies that encourage and expand the use of solar energy. Let’s all make 2013 the year that our area becomes noticed for its commitment to solar energy for our future.The Sustainability Steward (JR)