Texas has what it takes to be a national leader in solar power. We have the most solar radiation in the country, are home to one of the world’s largest suppliers of solar-grade silicon and wafers, and are innovators in the high tech industry. From a glass company in Wichita Falls, to steel brace fabrication in Brownwood, Texas-based companies span the solar supply chain.
With the solar industry quickly becoming a multi-billion-dollar venture, Texas businesses are positioned to provide the world with many of the components of solar energy systems, bringing investment dollars and high-paying jobs to the state. This white paper provides an overview of the solar supply chain, and highlights the businesses across Texas who stand to make considerable contributions to economic development and job creation in this state if we establish a robust solar market. We profile some of the companies who are either already busy producing solar components here in Texas or who could easily re-tool existing facilities to do so.
• PPG Industries is a glass manufacturer with a facility in Wichita Falls that produces glass for solar modules.
• Applied Materials, which has an Austin location, creates machinery for manufacturing solar panels.
• USA Wire and Cable is an Austin-based wire and cable distributor serving the solar industry
• MEMC’s facility in Pasadena is one of the world’s largest producers of polysilicon, used to create crystalline photovoltaic modules.
• ExelTech, based in Ft. Worth for over 20 years, engineers and manufactures inverters that convert electricity produced by solar power into electricity that can be used in a standard wall outlet.
• Entech Solar, also in Fort Worth, designs and manufactures proprietary solar modules.
• Barr Fabrication, in Brownwood, provided the structural support for Nevada Solar One –– the largest concentrating solar plant in the world.
• Tessera Solar, headquartered in Houston, develops, owns and operates large–scale solar plants, including the Western Ranch Solar Project in West Texas under development now.
Despite our considerable presence in the solar component field, it is far from assured that Texas businesses will reap the greatest possbile benefits from exponential growth in the solar industry.
Incentives provided by other states and countries are attracting major manufacturers away from Texas, leaving many of our businesses high and dry.
In order to capitalize on this incredible opportunity, Texas policymakers should:
• Include solar-specific requirements in an increase of Texas’ existing and highly successful Renewable Portfolio Standard.
• Establish goals and create incentives for building-integrated solar at the time of construction as part of the PUC’s advanced buildings incentive program. This can be accomplished by creating a rebate program. A declining rebate should be planned over a 10-year period to give the industry confidence to invest in production, research and development. At a minimum, new buildings should be “solar-ready.”
• Adopt Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) districts in Texas cities to provide loans to Texans to install solar panels, which are paid back through property taxes.
• Allow third-party ownership of PV systems.
• Make solar systems and installations exempt from state and local sales tax.
• Create fair buyback rates for electricity produced by solar power.
• Improve contract and interconnection standards and consumer protections for owners of solar systems, while banning homeowners’ associations from denying homeowners the right to install PV panels.
• Provide for the construction of solar ties to new Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) transmission lines in West Texas.
• Promote new ways to store the excess energy produced by the sun for later use, such as thermal storage technologies, flywheels and compressed air energy storage.
• Increase funding of research and development. Create a R&D technology center similar to the micro-computer consortium that was so successful in developing the microchip industry in Texas.
By providing incentives to help Texans put solar panels on the roofs of their homes and businesses, and by attracting companies to build large-scale solar farms, we can clean the air, create good manufacturing jobs in the solar industry and become a national leader in solar power. Thus, changes in state policy could actually help existing businesses expand while providing a likelihood that new manufacturing and power plant development companies would locate in Texas and create good, green jobs.