Largest Solar Farm in Texas Opens
The switch has officially been flipped, and a long-planned solar power farm in Webberville is now generating electricity.
The city of Austin unveiled the solar farm today, which is supposed to generate 30 megawatts of energy each year – enough to power about 5,000 homes.
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) expects challenges meeting energy demands if the summer proves to be as hot as 2011. Trip Doggett, chief executive of the state’s electric grid operator, says he can’t say the Webberville solar farm will be able to solve those challenges.
“I would say every little bit helps,” Doggett said. “This is not a tremendous magnitude of additional megawatts, but every little bit helps.”
Despite the relatively small energy output, the Webberville solar installation is the largest in Texas. Austin Energy has a 25-year contract to buy all the power from the plant which will help the city along in reaching its goal of getting at least 30 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.
Solar power is expensive to generate, almost five-times more than coal. Mark Mendenhall, president of the company that built the solar farm, SunEdison for North America, says the solar industry suffered some setbacks last year, but solar plants are slowly becoming competitive with traditional power plants.
“If we were to factor in all of those other costs, solar, in our mind, is already cost-effective. And within a couple of years, as we sell our electricity as a similar price to the grid, the total cost of installing it is going to be much less,” Mendenhall said.
Another solar farm is planned for Pflugerville, but the company building it has run into some delays.