March 29, 2009
Solar power

As you know, I've been a big advocate for wind energy on this site. Texas has done a lot to make itself a leader in that industry, and I believe it will pay many long-term dividends. But just as we have a lot of wind in this state (insert your own joke here), we also have a lot of sunshine, and as we do with wind, we ought to take advantage of that. Fortunately, there's a lot of action on that front in the Lege, with much of it taking place this past week in the Senate.

Altogether, according to David Power, the deputy director of Public Citizen Texas, a consumer and environmental advocacy group, there are 69 renewable energy bills before the legislature, and over 50 of them promote solar power -- far more than ever before.

"There are senators and representatives that are talking about solar that have never mentioned the word probably in their lives," he said. "We've actually heard the term 'global warming,' and two years ago that was called 'the G word' -- you didn't talk about it."

Mark Strama, a state representative who is a leading promoter of renewable energy, has introduced at least five green bills this year (including a measure that would allow local governments to create a property tax financing program for solar, along the lines of several California cities).

"It just seems like everybody recognizes our leadership in wind, and that government policy got us where we are today in wind," he told me last month.

In solar, he added, "We need to catch up."

BOR has more on this.

With over 60 bills in the House and over 30 in the Senate all pertaining to green energy initiatives, the Solar Alliance has targeted 6 major criterion needed in in any solar package in order to trigger the kind of job growth a widespread solar industry can create.

1. 3,000 total megawatts of installed solar over a 5- to 10-year program;
2. At least 1,000 of these megawatts dedicated to distributed generation;
3. Statewide application, with every region, every electric provider, and every customer class included, because if everyone benefits, everyone should participate;
4. Rate impact for residential consumers of less than $1.00 per month;
5. Provide an average of $250 million annually in incentives for the life of the program;
6. Program expires when the goal is reached.

This is an interesting tactic. Instead of advocating for a package of bills, the Solar Alliance has focused on specific policy positions.

If nothing else, that may help the rest of us evaluate the progress made in terms of what did and did not get passed. The Solar Alliance and the Alliance for a Clean Texas are good resources to visit if you want more involvement.

Finally, along similar lines, there's a push for a coal moratorium. Maybe these things can happen this session, and maybe not. But the chances for any of them are better than they've been in recent memory, perhaps in forever.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 29, 2009 to That's our Lege

we must include WIND where the winds blow......some states are NOT good sites 4 Wind Power, ie and some states are not good for solar...yep, we MUST Work together in Wind and Solar!

Posted by: wind4me on March 29, 2009 9:36 AM

Perhaps the wind collection is a more mature technology compared to solar. We are now starting to see lower-cost and higher-efficiency solar collection. Also lighter-weight, making it possible to put solar collectors on things like cars. Before these things were available, it may not have been appealing to invest a lot in solar technologies that were really too expensive to be competitive.

Personally I want a solar roof. I think it would have a double benefit - it would generate energy from solar radiation, and the solar radiation that was converted to electricity would not get converted to heat. So my A/C usage should go down even as I generate power for the remaining cooling needs.

Posted by: Sarah on March 29, 2009 1:48 PM

Focus is coming next month, the national forum on energy. $40 million is being spent on advertising by the coal industry to sell a campaign around 'clean coal' ( that's really creative b.s. )

Posted by: opit on March 30, 2009 7:41 PM
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