Sun Powers Energy Sector
When representatives of RRE Austin Solar say sunshine is hot in Texas, they don’t mean the temperature outside. They’re talking about the state’s fast-growing solar power industry and their company’s ability to turn sunshine into electricity.
RRE will operate one of the nation’s largest solar farms in Travis County, 15 miles east of Pflugerville. The 60 megawatt solar farm covers 728 acres and contains more than 400,000 solar panels to generate electricity from the sun, which can power several thousand homes. It should be complete before the end of 2011.
“This has been a dream for us,” says Daven Mahta, CEO of RRE Austin Solar.
The city was looking for a source of clean, sustainable power, says Mayor Jeff Coleman. Solar fit that goal perfectly.
“Pflugervillians, like most Central Texans, have a high degree of concern about the environment and we are honored that Pflugerville was selected as the site for the largest solar farm in the nation,” he says.
Texas offers franchise tax exemptions to solar energy device manufacturers, sellers, and installers, and offers business owner and property tax deductions and corporate economic development credits for renewable energy-related activities
As of mid-2009, more than 50 percent of Texas electric customers had access to a photovoltaic incentive program through their utility company. A 2010 U.S. Department of Energy study ranked Texas as one of the top seven southwestern states for Concentrating Solar Power. West Texas alone is estimated to have enough potential solar capacity to generate up to 149
megawatt (MW) hours of electricity. The solar energy on a single acre of land in West Texas is
capable of producing the energy equivalent of 800 barrels of oil each year.
Sunshine creates another abundant energy resource in Texas: biomass fuels. Leftover plant and animal materials from farms, and even yard waste from urban areas, become a valuable source of energy. For example, the state’s major agricultural residue, cotton gin trash, and leftovers such as rice hulls, cottonseed hulls and the fibrous residue from sugarcane are being converted into fuel. Because of the state’s large cattle industry, manure is an important resource Waste generated by the forest products industry is also a valuable resource.