City sets ambitious solar goal, path to zero carbon pollution from Austin Energy by 2030

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution.  Photo by Al Braden.

Some of the Affordable Energy Resolution community supporters celebrate with Councilman Chris Riley, who was the lead sponsor of the resolution. Photo by Al Braden.

A diverse coalition of groups representing workers, people of faith, low-income residents, clean energy supporters and environmental advocates united in their of goal of expanding affordable clean energy and protections to public health cheered the Austin City Council for adopting the Affordable Energy Resolution late Thursday evening.

The resolution comes after years of community-led work to study Austin Energy’s portfolio and generation plan, identify opportunities to strengthen the municipal utility’s clean energy and climate commitments while meeting the needs of low-income communities and after community members demonstrated strong demand for more affordable clean energy and less pollution on a reasonable but aggressive timeline.

The Affordable Energy Plan calls for Austin Energy to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025 and eliminate carbon pollution from its generator fleet by 2030. It directs the utility phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant by investing in 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes.

“Solar is now cheaper than building a new natural gas plant. Our analysis shows that 600 megawatts of solar will save Austin Energy between $12 and $33 million per year,” said Tom “Smitty” Smith of Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group. “We’re grateful for the strong leadership shown by Council Members Chris Riley, Mike Martinez, Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison and Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole.”

The landmark resolution also takes significant steps to expand local solar power.  It doubles Austin’s local solar goal to 200 megawatts, with half of that goal reserved for distributed residential and commercial solar projects. And the resolution expands access to rooftop solar projects by including solar leasing as an option for residents and businesses and by refining Austin Energy’s innovative value of solar tariff.

“Local solar creates local jobs.  The Austin solar industry already employs more than 800 people and many of those jobs are in solar installation and can’t be outsourced,” said Kaiba White of Solar Austin.  “Money spent on local solar goes back into our local economy.  Allowing people from all walks of life to benefit from solar is a win-win for Austin.”

A separate resolution was also passed to establish a task force to make recommendations on expanding the utility’s energy savings goal and ensuring that energy efficiency services are provided to people of all income levels. Energy efficiency is the most easily deployed, lowest-cost option for meeting energy needs and will be a critical component of meeting climate goals for the utility.

The City of Austin has long been a leader in Texas and nationally. The City announced its plans to power all city buildings and operations with Texas wind power in 2012, and earlier in 2014 Austin Energy announced a new solar power project at the lowest cost in U.S. history. In June 2014, the Austin City Council became first elected body in the nation to endorse the goals of the Clean Power Plan, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed plan to curb carbon pollution that drives climate disruption.

“The impacts of a rapidly changing climate are clear in Central Texas and as a progressive community we have a moral obligation to lead in reducing our carbon footprint while providing clean, affordable electricity to our people, businesses and churches,” said Reverend John Elford with the University United Methodist Church of Austin. “This resolution sets us on a path to meet both those needs.”

The Decker natural gas-fired power plant is a major contributor to smog pollution in Travis County. Replacing the plant with clean solar power will cut smog and improve air quality for the more than one million residents in the county, protecting children, seniors and people suffering from asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

“In its opposition to this resolution, Austin Energy continued the tradition of marginalizing the communities near Decker by citing money as a primary concern at the expense public health. By passing this resolution, City Council members have finally recognized that every Austinite should have the right to clean air. That this is an issue of justice and that it is an issue of equality,” said Mayte Salazar-Ordonez, a volunteer leader with Austin Beyond Coal.

As Austin Energy develops its plan to meet the goals of the Affordable Energy Resolution, building new gas- or coal-fired power plants will not be an option, representing an opportunity to move beyond traditional power plants and further tap Texas’s renewable energy potential.

The coalition will now look to secure timely retirement of the Fayette coal-fired power plant to meet the city’s carbon pollution elimination goal as well as to cut the soot, smog and mercury pollution coming from the plant that impacts local communities, farms and waterways. Nationwide, 178 coal-fired power plants have been announced for retirement as clean energy solutions like wind, solar and energy efficiency have cut air pollution, lowered costs for consumers and created jobs.

Today, Austin City Council will consider an historic energy proposal from Council Member Chris Riley that would save Austin millions while demonstrating an unprecedented commitment to renewable energy.

The resolution calls for Austin Energy to bring more than 600 megawatts of solar power, enough to power more than 100,000 homes, to its portfolio, phase out the Decker gas-fired power plant and set goals to generate more than 60 percent of its power from renewable sources and eliminate its carbon pollution by 2030.

Councilman Riley spoke about the need to action at Tuesday's Affordable Energy Rally in front of City Hall.  Photo by Al Braden.

Councilman Riley spoke at Tuesday’s Affordable Energy Rally in front of City Hall. Photo by Al Braden.

In addition to the diverse support behind Council Member Chris Riley for his proposed Affordable Energy Resolution, Public Citizen’s analysis shows that a key component of the plan is economically sound.

An analysis of the cost of Austin Energy’s most recent solar Request for Proposals (RFP) and projected cost to generate electricity in ERCOT, the Texas grid, over time shows tremendous savings from investing in an additional 600 megawatts of solar for Austin. The cost analysis was conducted for Public Citizen, a consumer watchdog group, using the same planning tools used by ERCOT and found that the solar power proposed in the Affordable Energy Resolution will save Austin consumers between $12.6 and $32 million per year on average compared to building a new natural gas-fired power plant, depending on fluctuations in the gas market.

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V.C. Summer nuclear plant construction in May of 2014. Source: ScanaScana Corp., owner of two reactors under construction at the V.C. Summer nuclear plant in South Carolina, announed on August 12th that the anticipated schedule for completion of unit 2 at one of the new nuclear plants that was licensed during the “nuclear renaissance” a few years back has now been pushed back, from its original start date of March of 2017 to as late as the first half of 2019. The company has not yet provided cost estimates associated with the new schedule, but three days later, Fitch revised the Rating Outlook for each entity to Negative from Stable.

In March 2012 V.C. Summer received its licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and construction began shortly after.  Since then, six rate increases have been imposed on South Carolina ratepayers and the project is now eating up 11% of utility bills with no benefit in sight for quite some time. Fitch is particularly concerned about the extent of the potential cost increase and the utility’s willingness to have rate payers shoulder the entire burden.

Problems at the troubled Vogtle nuclear reactor project in Georgia had been getting all the national headlines, but South Carolina Electric & Gas’ V.C. Summer reactor project is now giving the well-publicized nuclear debacle in Georgia a run for its money.

At the time these plants were trying to get licensed, both South Texas (nuclear) Project (south of Houston) and Comanche Peak (west of Fort Worth) had put in license applications for expansions of two new units at both locations.  The cost overruns and construction delays of the initial plants and the problems at the current new projects in the United States are a good indicator that Texas expansions would have faced the same issues had the licenses gone forward.

Still we must be vigilant as STP is still pursuing the expansion license in spite of the fact that the project is predominantly controlled by a foreign (Japanese) company, which is against the law.  Nevertheless, an Atomic Safety and Licensing Board recently ruled in favor of granting STP a new license despite NRC staff opposing it.  The Sustainable Energy and Economic Development (SEED) Coalition has been party to a suit to opposed the licensing (with assistance from Public Citizen and a local group – STARE) but will be needing additional funds to appeal the recent ruling.

Donate to SEEDIf you can, please make a donation toward SEED’s efforts.  We don’t need Georgia and South Carolina’s nuclear constructions problems in Texas.

EW&FThe Dallas Sierra Club  is holding an “Earth, Wind & Fire Energy Summit” at the Addison Conference Centre the weekend of October 4-5, 2014. Registration is now open for this exciting event at www.earthwindfiresummit.org .

This educational conference will provide insight on both traditional and renewable forms of energy including current and future perspectives on the use of these various forms of energy, on both a national and regional scale, as well as the environmental and human impacts of these various forms of energy.

The conference will feature well-known academics, policymakers, and professional representatives from associations and institutions that focus on a wide of energy issues.

Of particular interest to Public Citizen’s efforts in Texas are:

  •  Coal — Dr. Daniel Cohan of Rice Univ. speaking about new carbon rules – retrofitting or retiring old coal plants
  •  Fuel Exports — Dr. Beach, UTAustin, speaking on oil/coal/LNG exports

This event is ideal for the public, non-profit organizations, environmental professionals, small business owners, and students who want to:

  • Gain a global perspective of the dynamic and changing nature of energy in America
  • Explore how America’s demand for energy today translates into its production and expansion in the U.S. and Texas
  • Learn about the potential human and environmental impacts caused by energy production
  • Meet and network with an array of experts, respected organizations, and other individuals working on energy issues

Space is limited for this event. Early registration is $55 through Sept. 2 and $75 thereafter.For more information or to learn about exhibitor opportunities, contact Rita Beving

Today, Thursday August 14th, the Texas Low Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Compact Commission (TLLRWDCC) is holding a regularly scheduled meeting in the Equinox in Manchester, Vermont.

They are not making a live feed for the meeting available, but say they will record the meeting and make it available on the TLLRWDCC website.  However, they have the technology available if you are present  in Building E, Room 201S, 12100 Park 35 Circle, 78753 Austin, Texas at the TCEQ beginning at 8:00am on August 14th so you can participate in the meeting.

The agenda for the August 14, 2014 meeting of the TLLRWDCC is attached and is also available on the TLLRWDCC website at http://www.tllrwdcc.org/.


vegetarian benefits 5Producing animals for consumption takes one of the biggest tolls on our environment and is increasing as developing countries and the earth’s population grows to new heights. Today about 70 billion farm animals are produced annually for consumption with approximately 2/3 raised in factory farms under harsh and abnormal conditions. What this is doing to the earth is more damaging than all transportation impacts combined. To start with, it takes a lot of plant calories to produce the same amount of meat calories. Through the long process of raising, slaughtering and transporting livestock, this market is contributing to 75% of annual deforestation, while polluting water from pesticides and fertilizers used to grow feed instead of crops that directly feed the human population.

Like so many other economically efficient yet environmentally awful routines America has, livestock farming is another sector that needs to be reformed… or everyone needs to become vegetarian or vegan. The environmental impacts of meat consumption are no small thing.

vegetarian benefits 65 reasons to be vegetarian:

  1.  Consuming less meat, especially red meat like beef and lamb, reduces your carbon footprint better than buying a Prius would!
  2. Both methane and nitrous oxides (byproducts of livestock waste) have drastically more climate change impact than CO2 over the next couple decades.
  3. More land would be available for direct food crops in a growing population
  4. Reforesting lands that have been stripped of their vegetation to make room for cattle
  5. Feeling good about yourself for being sustainable!

Although consuming less meat would help decrease the negative effects of livestock farming, the farmers themselves have the ability to do their big part as well. According to a report by FAO, the most GHG emitting step in the livestock farming process was feed production and processing, which accounted for 45% of the total GHG emitted by livestock farming. Using low-emission feed or keeping the livestock grass fed, which eliminates transportation costs for the feed, is a large change that could be made to drastically reduce GHG emissions into the air. Other changes include the use of energy saving equipment, recycling the manure produced from cattle instead of producing fertilizer and improve graze and farming management to use rotational land use and crop harvesting. These are just a few necessary changes that need to be made in the livestock farming business which effects would drastically lessen greenhouse gas emissions, pollution and deforestation.

Either our diet or our demand for sustainable livestock farming needs to change and it starts with the consumer. If eating meat is too good to give up then, try eating less meat and choosing the more climate-friendly options. Some animals are more efficient at converting plant calories into meat calories than others and therefore have impacts relating to feed production.  If you have to get beef, choose grass-fed beef which eliminates the production and transportation of grain feed. These small changes can make a big difference if people can take the leap and change.

The Subcommittee on Seismic Activity will meet to hear testimony from the Railroad Commission of Texas and members of the public.  This hearing will be held in Austin at the Texas Capitol in E2.010 starting at 1pm on Monday, August 25th.

Texas-EarthquakeCOMMITTEE:   Energy Resources
SUBCOMMITTEE: Seismic Activity

TIME & DATE: 1:00 PM, Monday, August 25, 2014

PLACE:       E2.010
CHAIR:       Rep. Myra Crownover



NOTICE OF ASSISTANCE AT PUBLIC MEETINGS: Persons with disabilities who plan to attend this meeting and who may need assistance, such as a sign language interpreter, are requested to contact Stacey Nicchio at (512) 463-0850, 24 hours prior to the meeting so that appropriate arrangements can be made.


According to NBC News, NBC News ACthe United States uses more air conditioning than the rest of the world combined. Dealing with the high energy peaks has led utilities to try everything from new technology to “behavioral science.”  Check out their story.


photo by Brian Skerry

photo by Brian Skerry

Bigger, healthier fish, free of hormones, colorants, pesticides and prophylactic antibiotics free fish live in gigantic round or diamond shaped holding tanks off coasts. This is the next generation of fish harvesting called Open Ocean Fish Farming, which strives to be a sustainable and healthier source of fish for the rapidly growing human population.

There is a growing global fish crisis as the world population rises and consumes more fish in its wake. According to World Watch Institute, as of 2009 wild fish stocks around the world are 57% fully exploited, 30% overexploited and just 13% underexploited which is causing destructive effects on marine life. Every year there is about 7.3 million tons of bycatch, unintended marine life caught in fishing net, which is thrown back into the ocean either dead or severely injured such as dolphins, sharks, turtles, whales and many other species. These problems are associated with open water fishing, but there are also hoards of problems that come with fish farm plants where fish live in an unnatural environment that requires antibiotics, antifungal and antiparasitical agents to keep them alive. Conditions such as these are not only bad for the fish, but also transfer to the humans who eat them.

photo courtesy of NatGeo

photo courtesy of NatGeo

The difference between open ocean and conventional fish farms is basically the difference between free range grass-fed animals and animals raised in feedlots. In open ocean farms:

  • The fish are in pods located off shore where their waste is taken with the ocean, allowing a constant flow of new water.
  • Their diet is all-natural and does not include hormones, colorants, pesticides, or prophylactic antibiotics
  • The fish are able to swim more freely and actively
  • Coastal shores are not polluted by concentrated fish waste
  • The fish grow more rapidly – at a pace that can reach 10lb per year compared to 1lb per year
photo by Bryce Groark

photo by Bryce Groark

This new technology of fish farming could bring sustainability to a market that is currently destroying the earth’s aquatic environment. Through a man named Brian O’Hanlon, the start of open ocean fish farming has begun with the birth of Open Blue, a small business founded in 2007 that is currently producing 20-25 tons of Cobia in 1 harvest and is working with new innovative technologies to improve the way we harvest fish. With the earth’s human population expected to grow to 9.6 billion by 2050, according to the UN, there is a huge change that needs to be made in the way we harvest marine life.

Sheep grazing at 45 acre San Antonio OCI Solar Power farm Photo by Charlie Pearce

Sheep grazing at 45 acre San Antonio OCI Solar Power farm
Photo by Charlie Pearce

As solar power continues to expand, more companies are trying to find ways to cuts costs and be more efficient in the process of providing us with wonderful, clean, renewable energy. One solar company in San Antonio, OCI Solar Power, thought of an idea that leaders there say is sheer genius. They’ve put sheep to work on the grounds of a solar farm on the far northeast side of San Antonio to keep the grass cut.

As solar panels soak up plenty of hot Texas sunshine, there’s plenty of landscaping work to do at the Alamo 2 Solar Farm. But instead of people, OCI Solar Power is employing lambscapers. The solar farm isn’t the largest, however it is still difficult for man and mower to tackle, which would increase costs across the board.

The company started using sheep three months ago to maintain the grass at the 50-acre site. It’s the first time in Texas this has been done although it’s nothing new in California and Europe.

The 4.4-megawatt solar farm where the sheep graze is part of a series of 400-megawatt solar power plants that CPS Energy plans to have completed by 2016. Typically, a megawatt of solar energy can heat and cool as many as 100 homes on a hot summer day. When the temperatures aren’t as dreadfully hot, it can power many more.

At the San Antonio plant, which is home to thousands of solar panels, OCI Solar describes its grazing as an experiment that has worked well. The roaming sheep appear to have done their job; the grass reaches no higher than one foot despite recent heavy showers. When you have shrubbery growing over the panels you start losing effectiveness. The sheep have been a very important part in helping this site put out the maximum amount of power that it can. The sheep have been very well behaved. Unlike their equally hungry cousins goats may have done, the sheep have not chewed on cables or jumped on panels. The sole accident thus far came when one devious sheep snuck through a gap in a locked gate. OCI staff members teamed up with a police officer and a local resident to corral the animal within 30 minutes. At least the sheep had a bit of fun.

Sheep grazing is not a prevalent practice at solar farms in Texas however it has been used elsewhere, particularly in California and parts of Europe. Hiring a local breeder to bring sheep to a solar system is far less expensive than hiring human groundskeepers, companies say, and easier than trying to operate lawn equipment in tight spaces and around cables. In return the sheep receive fresh water and shelter from the glaring Texas sun beneath the panels. Sharing the land also benefits and supports the local agricultural economy, industry leaders say.

While the initial idea of mixing solar power and sheep might seem silly, it has actually proved to be incredibly beneficial to OCI’s farm. The first site was used as a guinea pig. Since the results have been positive, they hope to implement the lambscaping on other farms as well.

1303 San Antonio in 2008

1303 San Antonio in 2008

Public Citizen’s Texas office had the fortune to office in this building for the past six years.









1303 San Antonio St, Monday July 28, 2014

1303 San Antonio St, Monday July 28, 2014

Until it was demolished last week to make way for an 8 story office building.

toxic cleaning productsAlthough we buy cleaning products thinking they will protect us and kill all the nasty germs that lurk in our kitchen sinks and toilets, many of these home cleaning products are packing in a bigger punch that can have serious effects on our health and environment.

Take for example antibacterial hand soap that became so widespread after the H1N1 virus scare. Antibacterial hand soap was in every restaurant, school, and office space, ever since and became a normal commodity in American lives. Now the chemical found in antibacterial soaps called triclosan, has been banned in Minnesota for potentially promoting triclosan-adapted super bugs along with being no more effective, but more expensive than normal hand soap according to a study posted on the Oxford Journal.

Air fresheners use about 18.4 kWh of electricity and about half a gallon of oil every year while also containing higher levels of phthalates in some major air freshener brands that can cause birth defects. Many of these chemical ingredients are not listed on the label because they don’t have to be. Febreze alone has 87 chemicals, including BHT, which is a known neurotoxin, and acetaldehyde and propylene glycol, which are both carcinogens. Cleaning products aren’t required to include their ingredients on their label, which can be potentially dangerous when dealing with chemicals designed to kill bacteria, viruses and mold.

Bathroom and home cleaners are the worst as far as environmental and health risks. Brands as “family friendly” as Scrubbing Bubbles and Lysol have chemicals banned in the EU and statements on their label that say “harmful or fatal if swallowed” and can cause “irreversible damage to the eyes”. Environmental Working Group has a list of the top 10 worst bathroom and household cleaners to stay away from.

Having so many toxic cleaning products around the house is not worth it especially with animals or children exploring wherever they can fit their paws and fingers. There are alternative ways and products that can not only create a safer environment but also save you money like using the old fashioned white vinegar and water or various plants that have the power to remove 90% of chemicals in a room in under 24hrs. If you want something stronger there are plenty of organic, non-toxic cleaning chemicals that can make good replacements that can be found at ewg.org.


IMG_4488Even the best policies are rarely perfect from the onset.  Sometimes circumstances change and sometimes certain outcomes simply weren’t considered.  Either reality can result in a potentially great policy being only mediocre, or even bad. Part of what makes a great policy, is a willingness to make corrections as needed.

Austin Energy’s value of solar tariff (VoS) was the first effort of it’s kind.  Across most of the country, solar customers are billed for energy used, minus energy produced – a policy called net metering.  Instead, Austin Energy’s VoS establishes a monetary value for the energy produced from local solar installations.  Customers are billed for all of the energy they use at their regular tiered rates and are then credited for all the energy they produce at the VoS rate.

IMG_4517 (2)

Austin Energy solar customer have 2 meters, one to measure energy consumption and one to measure energy production.

The VOS was intended to ensure that both the solar customers and the utility were getting fair and accurate value for the energy that each was providing.  And, the incentive to reduce electric consumption that is provided by the tiered rates is maintained.  That’s because even if an energy hog offsets some of his use with solar, he will still be charged a higher rate for that consumption.  Solar is great, but using less energy is even better.  The VoS was a lofty new idea, adopted by a utility known for it’s renewable energy innovation.

A couple years into using the VoS, it is working, but needs a bit of perfecting.  On Monday evening, the Austin Electric Utility Commission (EUC) voted to support a few key changes, as proposed by Commissioner Clay Butler.

  1. Remove the year-end credit sweep, allowing credits to roll over until participant ceases to be AE customer – This will protect customers from having bill credits they have accrued from solar production taken from them.  Those credits can be used to offset energy use in future months or even years.
  2. Remove the 20 kW tariff cap – This will allow larger solar systems to be an economical choice for some customers.
  3. Set a floor on the VoS tariff tied to the residential electric rate – Setting a floor for the VoS will give customers some certainty of the value they can count on from their investment.  The VoS would still fluctuate, but not below a certain point. That exact point needs to be set, but tieing it to the second tier rate would preserve the incentive to conserve energy (to avoid higher rate tiers), while ensuring that VoS credits would be fairly valued in comparison to energy charges low and medium use customers.
  4. Allow leased system “hosts” to receive VoS credits – Leasing is an option that will help expand solar adoption.  Applying the VoS equally to all residential solar systems will help making leasing a viable option in Austin.
  5. Adopt 5 year rolling average in calculating annual VoS assessment – A rolling 5 year average for the VoS will smooth out the changes from year to year and therefor provide more stability for customers.
  6. The City Council and City Manager reject the price quote on the 25 year guaranteed fuel price ($5.28 per MMBtu ) proposed by Austin Energy for the 2015 rate assessment. – The projected future price of natural gas is the single most significant factor in the calculation of the VoS.  Projections of natural gas prices are notoriously wrong and under projecting those future prices results in a lower VoS and less value going to solar customers.

Austin Energy has already endorsed several these recommendations (#’s 1, 2, 4, and 5).  The next step will be for the Austin City Council to act on these recommendations. There will be opportunities for the public weigh in on these issues before Council as part of the budget process in August.

When you ask most people what they think of solar power, they image rooftops covered in panels, and talk of going green. However, if you ask a government or private scientist what they think of solar power, you might get a very different answer. Give these guys enough time and money, and they’ll come up with some pretty mind blowing applications for the modest solar cell.  Solar PV technology isn’t just becoming for affordable for existing applications, it’s also being contemplated for a variety of new uses.

Space Based Solar Power

Space Based Solar Power

One of the most cutting edge ideas in the solar world is the concept of Space Based Solar Power (SBSP). The concept involves launching huge solar arrays into space, where the sun is always shining at 100% intensity. Most designs involve a set of mirrors that collect solar radiation, and then condense it on to a super efficient lower orbit solar PV array. Once the energy is collected, its beamed down to Earth in the form of microwaves. A massive rectenna on earth, about 10km in diameter, receives the energy and converts it back to electricity. This set-up could produce more than 1GW of power, or about as much as the average nuclear power plant. While the technology exists to make this a reality, its wildly expensive because of the high cost of launching anything into space.

Along the same line of thought is the creation of laser solar satellites. These little guys collect solar energy from PV cells, and then blast it back to Earth in the form of a high powered laser. Each device produces about 1 to 10MW, so it would take an army of them to power a good sized city. In fact, the military has been quite interested in this technology for a long time. The idea of being able to instantly fry something from space has made people skeptical of developing this technology further.

Transparent Solar Cells

Transparent Solar Cells

A more peaceful, and ultimately more profitable idea, comes in the form of see-through solar power windows. A company called New Energy Technologies has created tiny, transparent, spray on solar cells that can be applied to windows. New Energy estimates that out fitting a building with electricity generating glass windows would only increase the cost of construction by about 10%. Developing a way to retrofit existing buildings with this product could usher in a new wave of the solar revolution. It could come sooner than people think too. There are a lot of companies and agencies all over the world working on this exact type of technology.

And of course there’s Solar Roadways, which you can read about in our previous post.

While all of these technologies are pretty futuristic, there is a true possibility of making them mainstream. With the right policies and funding, a world powered by extraterrestrial solar, sun fueled lasers, and self-generating buildings could be a reality.

The University of Texas at Austin Solar Vehicles Team serves as local university host for the Formula Sun Grand Prix, an annual collegiate solar car race. This year, the event takes place at the Circuit of The Americas track, the first time Formula Sun has occurred on an official F1 track. Circuit of The Americas is also a sponsor of the UT team.

Come out and support your favorite team! This week, the Circuit of The Americas is hosting American Solar Challenge and Formula Sun Gran Prix for solar cars.

The American Solar Challenge is an 8 day, 1700+ miles distance race from Austin TX to Minneapolis MN that tests how long each car can run under specific specs for the car. The Formula Sun race, hosted at the Formula One track in Austin, is a qualifying race with a focus on maneuvering around curves and corners while trying to complete the most laps.

Formula Sun logoThe Formula Sun race takes place July 17-19th   with doors open from 8am-9pm. The first two days are dedicated to prequalifying rounds and the 19th is the actual race to determine who wins and also who qualifies for the American Solar Challenge.

There will be 23 teams, including the University of Texas, who will race spaceship looking solar cars with a speed limit of 65mph. The event does not allow camping on the premises, but is free for the public to watch and root for their favorite team which is mostly colleges and universities from around the country.

There will be a children’s solar car workshop on the 19th about every hour during the day where they will be able to build and race small model solar cars.

If you and your family are interested in weird looking sustainable cars racing around the Circuit of The Americas then this event is one to mark on your calendar.