Posts Tagged ‘renewable’

Don't blame the windCheck out Public Citizen’s Texas director’s, Tom “Smitty” Smith, response to CPS Energy CEO Doyle  Beneby‘s op-ed in the San Antonio Express last week that blamed Texas wind power plants for creating problems by producing such cheap power that it made it hard to build new gas plants or profitably operate those we have.

Click here to read “Don’t blame wind energy for lack of new power plants”

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A dream deferred

The Southwestern U.S. has dominated the world of utility-scale solar projects over the past few years, with news of deals being signed for solar-power plants as large as 1 gigawatt or more.  But now the Southeastern U.S. looks like it will soon be home to one of the world’s largest solar projects, a 400-megawatt photovoltaic farm being built by National Solar Power, LLC.

The next question is where.  The company has vetted a total of seven sites in three states, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina, as potential hosts for the ambitious project.  They say the sites must meet certain criteria:


Having enough undeveloped land to put this farm in (ideally 4,000 acres contiguously) but because the Southeast doesn’t have the same relatively unused land resources as the Southwest, the company is looking at a different approach.  Creating the world’s largest solar farm that could be made up of as many as 20 different fields.  


Appropriate economic development strategies, such as tax incentives that could include federal, state and local incentives, and financial partners.  


Community support, and  


A qualified work force.  

The five-year build out project is projected to cost roughly $1.5 billion.

The 1,000 megawatt Blythe Solar Power Project in California that broke ground last month is projected to create 1,000 direct jobs during construction phases and 200 permanent positions. It will also create 7,500 indirect jobs throughout the country.

So many of these opportunities are passing Texas by because the state had failed to provide incentives for them to come here.  Fortunately, Texas has some large cities with municipally owned utilities that are seeing the advantages to their communities both in terms of jobs, the ability to lure other associated industries (like PV manufacturing) to their cities, and the stablelization of their peak electric demand by investing in rooftop and utility scale solar and other renewable sources of power.

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The House Business and Industry Committee will meet next Monday and one of the bills that they will be taking testimony on is HB 450 filed by Representative Eddie Lucio, III (D-San Benito) that addresses the regulation of solar energy devices by a property owners’ association.  If you are a homeowner who wants solar but your HOA rules prohibit the installation of solar panels, and you live in the district of one of the committee members, you might want to call your representative and let them know that you support this bill. 

Feeling really passionate about this and plan on being in Austin next Monday – stop by the capitol after 2pm, go to the hearing room-E2.016 and sign up to testify for this bill.

Below is a list of the House Business and Industry committee members and their capitol office phone numbers.

House Business and Industry

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Senator John Carona (R-Dallas)

Senator John Carona (R-Dallas)

For many who want to add more rooftop and other on-site solar generating devices on homes and even commercial properties, there have been concerns about the prospect of being regulated as utilities.  This concern has been seen as an overly burdensome barrier to the industry, however Senator John Carona (R-Dallas) filed legislation that would make clear that retail electric customers who install generation devices such as solar panels on their property are not regulated as generating companies as long as they don’t produce more than 2,000 kilowatts.  To see the text of the SB 981, click here.

The legislation also would direct the Public Utility Commission (PUC) to conduct a study that would help to establish a fair market price for retail electric customers who generate surplus power that could be sold back to the grid.

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Doyle Beneby, CPS CEO and President

Doyle Beneby, CPS CEO and President

Solar Austin is hosting a special event featuring the CEO of San Antonio’s municipal utility, Doyle Beneby of CPS.

Mr. Beneby will discuss CPS Energy’s plan to pursue affordable renewable energy. This special event will take place at Malverde (400 W. 2nd, next to City Hall) with a Reception starting at 4pm and talk from 5 to 6pm.

WHO:  CPS Energy CEO & President Doyle Beneby

WHAT:  CPS Energy: Leading San Antonio into the New Energy Economy

WHEN: Wednesday,   February 23   from 4:00 – 6:00  pm

WHERE: Malverde, 400 W. 2nd, Austin, TX (immediately NW of City Hall)

For more info: http://www.solaraustin.org/. To learn more about Doyle Beneby, click here.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Future's so brightCPS Energy CEO Doyle Beneby announced that the utility will acquire an additional 50 megawatts of solar power and that the company chosen to build the new plants for it will be required to locate a portion of its business in San Antonio.  Currently the negotiations include a leading solar manufacturer to locate a small office in the area and invest in an educational center at one of the solar sites with a larger goal of having a solar company locate a manufacturing plant or perhaps an assembly plant in San Antonio.

San Antonio is trying to do locally, what the State should be doing – luring new renewable industries and jobs to Texas.  As CPS and San Antonio take the lead in fulfilling their potential as a clean energy hub, let’s hope the State takes notice and begins to follow suite.

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President of RRE Solar at groundbreaking

RRE Solar Austin held its groundbreaking ceremony in Pflugerville yesterday. This is the first utility scale solar farm, and one of the largest photovoltaic projects in the country, to be built by the company and the first to break ground in the Austin area. Planned to produce 60Mw of solar energy when completed it will use more than 400,000 solar panels in its construction.

The project is planned to start installing panels by March of 2011 and needs the construction of a local substation to be finished before it can begin sending energy to the grid. If everything goes according to plan, this project should start producing its energy and sending into the Texas grid by the end of 2011. They worked extensively with the local community, school districts, county and the City of Austin to get this project started and will be providing solar panels to the local school districts for their use as part of this effort.

RRE Solar has plans to start developing on a second 60Mw Project located in Big Spring Texas through its subsidiary RRE Big Spring Solar .

While attending the groundbreaking I had an interesting conversation with the construction crew, who were just watching the festivities, and asked them about the project. They were glad for the work and it hadn’t occurred to them that they were part of the “green jobs” that they had  heard about. The project should employ around 250 construction jobs and the crew wants to have lots more of these projects to work on in the future.

With the Texas Legislature starting its session soon lets hope our legislators take notice and put policies in place to encourage more of these projects to be built around our state.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

RRE Solar groundbreaking first shovels

RRE Solar Austin ground breaking, green jobs

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For the last few months people who wanted to install solar systems in the Oncore service area have been disappointed as they have been told that the incentive funds are all reserved.

It turns out there is another pool of funds available that has been harder to find. The Oncore website lists all the solar incentive funds as being reserved, but that refers to a batch a funds that was made available as part of the Oncore sale settlement of a few years ago.

There is another source of funds that have not been drawn down and are not easily found on the website, the incentive amount per installed watt is smaller than the settlement fund, but cash of any amount helps the balance sheet and gets that sweet solar solution installed on your roof.

For commercial projects in the Oncore service area give John Hanel a call at 214-486-5886

For residential projects in the Oncore service area the person to contact is Carl Brown 214-486-3244

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According to Bloomberg, electricity producers such as NRG Energy Inc. and Southern Co. will benefit as the new house Republican majority promotes nuclear power as part of clean-energy legislation.  They go on to point out that cap-and-trade was denounced in ads by candidates of both parties, and they expect a fight over plans by the Environmental Protection Agency to impose its own restrictions on carbon emissions.

They also anticipate that renewable-energy legislation next year would encourage construction of nuclear and “clean- coal” plants.

For those close to the Barnett Shale, House Republicans will probably resist efforts to limit hydraulic fracturing, a technique used in drilling for natural gas in which chemically treated water is pumped underground to loosen rock and let gas flow, and a process that has been of significant concern to Texans in the Dallas-Fort Worth air shed.  The EPA is currently conducting a study of potential environmental impacts of the practice.

The Republican takeover of the House also puts Representative Doc Hastings of Washington state, an opponent of new restrictions on offshore oil and gas drilling, in line to take over the Natural Resources Committee. Hastings denounced a measure, that would have removed a $75 million cap on liability for leaks, and would bar BP (the company responsible for the Gulf of Mexico deep water oil spill off the coast of Louisiana) from new U.S. leases.

I’m sure you can see where this could be taking U.S. energy and environmental policy.  If you are concerned, consider making a donation to Public Citizen as we head into a new political era.

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By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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CPS Energy in San Antonio continues to move forward with its renewable plans under Mayor Julian Castro. A major new solar announcement, just as its 14 MW solar system is getting finished, is good news indeed. San Antonio has been a leader in wind energy and now leads the state in solar, where is the leadership in the other cities and the state? They should take a long hard look in the mirror, and then go visit the new green leader, way to go San Antonio.

From the CPS web site.

CPS Energy Rising to Be National Leader in Green Power


CPS Energy’s renewable energy portfolio will increase by 30 megawatts (MW) with this week’s signing of a new 25-year purchase power agreement (PPA) with SunEdison, a global leader in delivering solar electricity. With the SunEdison agreement, CPS Energy now has 44 MW of solar generation under contract, solidifying its position as the leader in renewable energy resources among municipally owned utilities in the nation.  The contract moves CPS Energy closer to its vision of providing customers with 1,500 MW of renewable energy (wind and solar) by 2020.

“The market for solar energy continues to improve, and this agreement takes advantage of that,” said President and CEO Doyle Beneby. “In addition to more than 40 MW of solar generation, CPS Energy has rebates that incentivize the use of solar by homeowners and businesses, and a developing distributed-generation program. With 300 days of sunshine each year, it just makes sense that San Antonio becomes a hub for solar energy in the U.S.”

By fall of 2012, Maryland-based SunEdison is expected to complete installation of 120,000 single-axis tracking photovoltaic (PV) panels that will follow the sun throughout the day, generating a total of 30 MW at three locations across the CPS Energy service area. The three locations will be announced later this year, and construction is expected to begin in early 2012. The combined energy output of the three facilities is expected to be approximately 54,000 megawatt hours—enough to power about 3,700 homes.

“We are pleased to provide this long-term, renewable energy solution for our customers,” added CPS Energy Chief Sustainability Officer Cris Eugster.  “In addition to helping us meet our goal to provide 100 MW of solar generation by 2020, we’re also looking to SunEdison to be a key partner in transforming San Antonio into a national hub for solar energy.”

“SunEdison is committed to the growing Texas solar energy market, and we look forward to expanding our utility scale presence in the state in 2011,” said Carlos Domenech, President of SunEdison.  “Our development capabilities, financing power and execution track record enables municipal utilities, like CPS Energy, to benefit from economically viable solar solutions.”


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, cleaner cars, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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Barry Smitherman, chairman of the Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUC), made this statement regarding the “progress” Texas has been making in regards to green energy and “responsible” leadership:

Texas is the nation’s reddest state on the political map. But it produces more green energy than any blue state. The state’s top political leaders are fiercely fighting federal cap-and-trade legislation, but the state is No. 2 behind only New York when it comes to reducing the production of carbon dioxide emissions. (From the Texas Energy Report)

This is true, IF you completely ignore the plethora of new coal plants being proposed and built in Texas. Texas already has 17 coal plants (more than any other state), and there are 12 or 13 more being proposed or built (also more than any other state – by far). Current reductions in greenhouse gases include improved building codes, energy efficiency programs, replacement of pilot lights, air conditioning retrofitting, and wind farms. The reduction of greenhouse gases from all these amounts to about 16 million tons a year. If you add in the wind farms that still need transmission lines built to access their power you get around 43 million tons a year. This sounds great until you realize that the recent coal plant proposals would add 77 million tons of CO2 to our atmosphere every year – far more than offsetting these reductions.

While reductions in greenhouse gasses should, of course, be applauded, it is misleading for Chairman Smitherman to take credit for Texas reducing greenhouse gas emissions when he knows there are so many coal plants looming on the horizon that will completely overwhelm these significant reductions. If Texas were really serious about reducing greenhouse gas emissions we would not allow anymore unnecessary coal plants to be built, and start replacing the old ones we have with renewable forms of power generation. This would do far more than anything to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, and the public health and environmental health benefits from getting off a fossil-fuel based electric system would far outweigh the cost.


By promoting cleaner energy, cleaner government, and cleaner air for all Texans, we hope to provide for a healthy place to live and prosper. We are Public Citizen Texas.

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President Obama has voiced that two of his top priorities will be climate change and energy.  Earlier this month he picture-5announced an energy plan that would call for 14% reduction in emissions from the 2005 levels by 2020, and an 83% reduction by 2050.

But House Democrats Henry a. Waxman (California) and Edward J. Markey (Massachussettes) want more!  They drafted a bill with even more gusto to capture greenhouse gases—a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020!

Remember that this power team was also responsible for the bill to put a moratorium on coal plants introduced a year ago.   The new Waxman-Markey bill will require every region of the country to produce 25% from renewable sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal.  This could be a huge factor to increase the demand for sustainable energy to spur wide-range development and adoption of energy technology.

Mr. Waxman, the chairman of the Energy and Commerce committee said regarding his bill:

This legislation will create millions of clean energy jobs, put America on the path to energy independence, and cut global warming pollution.  Our goal is to strengthen our economy by making America the world leader in new clean energy and energy efficiency technologies.

However, the bill also makes some concessions to the states whose economy rests upon coal and energy-related industries, with the hope that it will smooth the transition to cleaner forms of energy.   To read more, check out this press release from Tyson Slocum at our D.C. office.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This bill is a really great start.  Obama started the bid at a 14% cut, the House upped the ante to 20%, but according to the Nobel-prize winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the real target we should be shooting for is about 35%.  Unfortunately, none of the bills in the House or Senate is shooting for this target.  The good news is, according to an analysis by McKinsey and Company, almost all of that 35% can be achieved at a net cost savings through things like energy efficiency.  And realistically, that’s only 3.5% per year for the next decade. ~~Citizen Andy

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