GEORGETOWN — A Central Texas city will be among the first in the U.S. to get its electricity exclusively from solar and wind energy.
SunEdison, which makes solar panels and develops power plants, said Wednesday that it is building a 150-megawatt solar farm in West Texas to serve the municipal utility of Georgetown, about 30 miles north of Austin. That’s enough to supply about half the city’s residents, and the rest of the electricity will come from wind.
The project will boost the state’s installed solar capacity by about a third to 490 megawatts, enough to power about 74,000 homes.
SunEdison plans to begin construction by the end of the second quarter and finish in about six months. Georgetown agreed to buy all the output over 25 years.
Georgetown also has partnered with the neighboring city of Garland in a 20-year agreement for wind power from a farm west of Amarillo. “The calculus is, not only does it bring power prices down, but it sharply decreases our water usage and is not subject to environmental regulation on greenhouse gases,” said Jim Briggs, general manager for the city’s utility.
SunEdison vice president Paul Gaynor told The Associated Press that the company is planning to concurrently build another major solar installation in Texas, but it declined to provide details. Gaynor added that more cities would shift to renewable resources as they seek to shield themselves from the fluctuating prices of fossil fuels. “If oil goes to $100 barrel again, it’s not going to have an impact on the bills of these customers,” Gaynor said.
Texas has nearly as many solar resources as California but only a fraction as many solar panels. Texas ranks 10th in installed solar capacity, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Solar Energy Industries Association.