Executive Director, Environment Texas
Executive Director, Environment Texas
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center
AUSTIN – A new report ranks Dallas 44th in the nation for the amount of solar installed. The Environment Texas Research and Policy Center report, Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution, provides a first-of-its-kind comparative look at the growth of solar in major American cities.
“Solar power is booming across the country and cities are at the forefront,” said Metzger. “The progress we are seeing here and around the country should give us the confidence we can do more.”
The report found that there is more than 200 times as much solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity installed in the U.S. today compared to 2002, much of that in America’s cities. The top 20 cities account for 7 percent of the installed photovoltaic solar, while occupying only 0.1 percent of the land area. San Antonio leads all Texas cities, with Austin ranked 16 with a solar PV capacity of 13 MW, Houston ranked 32 with a solar PV capacity of 4 MW, and Dallas ranked 44 with a solar PV capacity of 1 MW.
With the cost of solar coming down, there’s growing awareness of solar power as a mainstream energy solution with widespread benefits for our health, our economy and the environment.
The report highlighted the benefits of solar energy, including:
- Solar energy avoids pollution—Pollution-free energy from the sun reduces air pollution that contributes to urban smog and global warming. It also helps save the massive amount of water that’s normally consumed during the cooling of fossil-fuel-burning power plants.
- Solar energy protects consumers— Since solar has no fuel costs, it can protect us from the rising cost of fossil fuels.
- Solar energy helps the economy— Texas has 4,100 solar jobs, growing by 28% since last year.
The top 20 solar cities in this report have more solar power within their city limits than was installed in the entire U.S. just six years ago.
The state Legislature has taken some modest steps to promote solar. In 2011, a bill was passed to stop homeowners’ associations from interfering with the installation of solar panels and in 2013, the legislature approved a new program to help commercial property owners finance clean energy programs. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing allows property owners to borrow money from a specially created fund for clean energy projects. The loan is paid off on property tax bills over a number of years, thus, future repayment of the loan is assured, even if the property changes hands. Environment Texas urged Dallas-Fort Worth local governments to take advantage of the program to help businesses go solar.
But without a statewide solar requirement for utilities and financing programs, these smaller policies have proven to be inadequate to support solar growth in Texas’ deregulated portion of the electric market. Oncor’s Solar PV Program offers incentives to its north Texas customers, but it operates with a small budget compared to what is available in San Antonio and Austin, contributing to Dallas’ low ranking in the study.
Environment Texas praised an effort by the North Central Texas Council of Governments to achieve “more streamlined and standardized solar practices, resulting in measurable improvement in the North Texas solar market.” The Solar Ready II project is working to “establish solar needs and goals for the DFW region, prioritize best management practices for the North Texas region (ex. improving the permitting process, promoting solar access for residential and commercial properties, implementing alternative financing options, etc.), creating working groups to execute program objectives and provide training materials and assisting local governments with implementing best management practices.”
Environment Texas also urged DFW cities to run “Solarize” programs that use bulk purchasing and educational campaigns to help neighbors “go solar” together; like the Solarize Plano program. These “solarize” projects help accelerate the adoption of solar PV in a given local area. Plano Solar Advocates, the grassroots volunteer organizers of the Solarize Plano Project, have worked together with the North Texas Renewable Energy Group to facilitate a DFW “solarize” network to help other North Texas communities initiate their own local group projects.
“Dallas has made progress, but there’s a lot more to do,” said Metzger. “By committing to bold goals and putting strong policies in place, Dallas can shine as a national leader and reap the environmental and economic benefits of the solar revolution.”