Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Texas Town Says No to Fossil Fuels, Yes to 100% Renewables

Business
Texas Town Says No to Fossil Fuels, Yes to 100% Renewables

Texas' image as the king of oil states clings to it through repeated boom and bust cycles. Its politicians tend to be close friends of the fossil fuel industry. So people don't think of it as the leading U.S. state for renewable energy—even though it is. It's the top producer of wind energy in the U.S.

Texas' wide open spaces have proved ideal for wind power generation, and Texas is the country's number one wind state.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

One city in Texas aims to be the first to power itself entirely on renewables. Georgetown, Texas, 30 miles north of Austin in central Texas, has announced its intention to be all-renewable by 2017. The city of 50,000 has signed a deal with SunEdison to supply it with solar power for the next 25 years. It comes on the heels of a a deal the city made last year to source electricity from a wind farm currently under construction 50 miles west of Amarillo that will start to provide power next year. The two deals—for 150 megawatts of solar and 144 megawatts of wind—will make Georgetown Utility Services one of the largest municipally owned utilities in the U.S. to get all its electricity from renewables.

“Georgetown Utility Services isn’t required to buy solar or other renewables—we did so because it will save on electricity costs and decrease our water usage," said Georgetown's interim city manager and general manager of utilities Jim Briggs. "When Georgetown Utility Systems opted to seek new sources of power in 2012, we were charged with a mission to secure the most cost-effective energy that balanced risk and reward. Our team took advantage of a unique time in the market place and did just that. By securing these renewable contracts the utility can consider itself 100 percent ‘green,’ but it does so at extremely competitive costs for energy, and it hedges against future fuel and regulatory risks, fulfilling our initial goal.”

The city says that the combination of solar and wind will provide energy from complementary renewable sources to meet demand patterns. Solar's afternoon supply peak matches the daily energy demand peak in Georgetown, particularly during hot summer months. Wind power production in the Amarillo area is generally highest in the evening or early-morning hours, providing power when the sun isn't shining. And wind and solar generation requires no water, an important consideration in the drought-stricken state.

“SunEdison is very excited to be working with Georgetown Utility Systems to provide their customers with 100 percent renewable, clean energy,” said Paul Gaynor, executive vice president of SunEdison's North America Utility and Global Wind division. “Georgetown is an exceptional city, and by going 100 percent renewable they cut down on pollution, save water and enjoy stable energy prices. They’re able to accomplish all of this without spending a penny upfront with the SunEdison power purchase agreement. Georgetown is a model for other cities that hope to become powered by clean renewable energy.”

Despite Texas' position on the leading edge of renewable energy generation, the oil mentality dies hard in Texas, especially now that the fracking boom has given the state a new source of fossil fuels. State Sen. Troy Fraser from Horseshoe Bay, Texas, about a hour west of Georgetown, has proposed ending the state's renewable energy standard, saying that renewables are doing so well it's no longer necessary.

“We have done what we intended to accomplish,” he said at a hearing this week. "Not only did we roar past the goal we had in place, we have more than doubled that goal."

But Cyrus Reed of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter warned, "Even though the Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) goal has been met, these renewable energy credits are still part of project economics, both complete and under construction, and eliminating the RPS would hurt current investors and risk weakening additional investment in Texas. In other words, if these RPS-based renewable energy credits were eliminated, their value would plummet and revenue would be lost, which would be unfair to developers and their investors who have invested their money with the expectation the RPS would be carried out through 2025."

He also warned that if the RPS was repealed, it would cost Texas more to comply with the carbon reduction goals of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan.

The rollback attempt, part of a nationwide effort to kill renewable energy standards, is bankrolled by fossil fuel-friendly organizations. West Virginia became the second state to do so in February, following Ohio's rollback last June. A Pew Charitable Trusts report found that Ohio's rollback has already cost the state jobs and investment money.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Texas Wind Powers 3.3 Million Homes

Texas Town Sues to Uphold Fracking Ban, Protect Democracy

Ohio's Renewable Energy Freeze Threatens Growth of Solar and Wind Investments and Jobs

Plastic bails, left, and aluminum bails, right, are photographed at the Green Waste material recovery facility on Thursday, March 28, 2019, in San Jose, California. Aric Crabb / Digital First Media / Bay Area News via Getty Images

By Courtney Lindwall

Coined in the 1970s, the classic Earth Day mantra "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle" has encouraged consumers to take stock of the materials they buy, use, and often quickly pitch — all in the name of curbing pollution and saving the earth's resources. Most of us listened, or lord knows we tried. We've carried totes and refused straws and dutifully rinsed yogurt cartons before placing them in the appropriately marked bins. And yet, nearly half a century later, the United States still produces more than 35 million tons of plastic annually, and sends more and more of it into our oceans, lakes, soils, and bodies.

Read More Show Less
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Rise and Resist activist group marched together to demand climate and racial justice. Steve Sanchez / Pacific Press / LightRocket / Getty Images

By Alexandria Villaseñor

This story is part of Covering Climate Now, a global journalism collaboration strengthening coverage of the climate story.

My journey to becoming an activist began in late 2018. During a trip to California to visit family, the Camp Fire broke out. At the time, it was the most devastating and destructive wildfire in California history. Thousands of acres and structures burned, and many lives were lost. Since then, California's wildfires have accelerated: This past year, we saw the first-ever "gigafire," and by the end of 2020, more than four million acres had burned.

Read More Show Less
Trending
U.S. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland announced a pair of climate-related secretarial orders on Friday, April 16. U.S. Department of the Interior

By Jessica Corbett

As the Biden administration reviews the U.S. government's federal fossil fuels program and faces pressure to block any new dirty energy development, Interior Secretary Deb Haaland won praise from environmentalists on Friday for issuing a pair of climate-related secretarial orders.

Read More Show Less
David Attenborough narrates "The Year Earth Changed," premiering globally April 16 on Apple TV+. Apple

Next week marks the second Earth Day of the coronavirus pandemic. While a year of lockdowns and travel restrictions has limited our ability to explore the natural world and gather with others for its defense, it is still possible to experience the wonder and inspiration from the safety of your home.

Read More Show Less

By Michael Svoboda

For April's bookshelf we take a cue from Earth Day and step back to look at the bigger picture. It wasn't climate change that motivated people to attend the teach-ins and protests that marked that first observance in 1970; it was pollution, the destruction of wild lands and habitats, and the consequent deaths of species.

Read More Show Less