The Lone Star State has all of the natural and demographic elements for a thriving solar sector – if none of the incentives. However, Charlie Hemmeline, executive director of the Texas Solar Power Association (TSPA), says solar speaks for itself.
‘Our view is that we support the competitive market,’ Hemmeline says. ‘We want to prove solar is a good customer choice by its merits. It's becoming that, and it already is in certain segments. At the large scale, solar is cheaper than a gas plant and very much cost-competitive.’
The TSPA is a statewide industry trade association that supports solar power at all scales – wholesale and retail. Hemmeline says the development climate in Texas is positive for energy in general. The state generally supports investment, resource development and business. There is no reason solar cannot thrive as a business in Texas, particularly with all of the advantages it offers.
‘The solar industry is the energy industry, and we are businesses,’ Hemmeline says. ‘In that regard, Texas is very attractive to our member companies as a fertile place for development. We have some of the best solar resources in the country, and our electricity load is very large. All of those things combined make Texas very appealing as a solar market.’
Texas has invested in its transmission through the competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) additions. Although the infrastructure was developed primarily to take advantage of the wind resources of West Texas, it is equally useful for large-scale solar projects. West Texas has similar irradiance resource characteristics to California's Imperial Valley. Solar can help the state maximize its investment in the CREZ transmission.
Hemmeline points out that there is also tremendous opportunity – perhaps as much as 60 GW – to locate solar close to load in the big cities through distributed generation. There is a huge amount of urban rooftop acreage to install solar commercially, and there is a vast number of untapped residential rooftops.
In terms of solar-specific policy, the state does not currently have a mandate or an incentive to develop solar in particular. For this reason, the TSPA's objective for the new Texas legislative session is to get it to ‘do no harm.’
‘We would not want to see the legislature go out of its way to add new taxes or fees or other barriers to solar,’ Hemmeline says. ‘There are concerns in other markets about solar's expansion, and so we wouldn't want to see Texas try to put the brakes on it. We think solar's going to be a tremendous benefit, and let's let it happen.’
Hemmeline is conducting a webinar on the outlook for solar power in Texas on Feb. 4 from 12:00 p.m. to 1:00 p.m. EDT. To register for the free event, which is hosted by the Principal Solar Institute, click here.