Austin Energy will soon be getting more of its power from the sun.
The city-owned electric utility has signed a deal, announced today, with a San Francisco-based firm to build the single largest solar facility in Texas by 2016. Under a 20-year power purchase agreement, Recurrent Energy will build a 150-megawatt solar farm in West Texas.
Austin Energy spokesperson Carlos Cordova says the deal will help the public utility and the Austin City Council to achieve two goals – "to have 200 megawatts of all of our energy derived from solar power, and 35 percent of all of our energy be derived by renewable energy."
The agreement should make Austin the largest city in America with a public power utility delivering 35 percent Green-e certified energy. The utility already has 50 megawatts of local solar power in Austin.
Recurrent Energy CEO Arno Harris says as solar panels have dropped in price, plants are building more efficiently and with fewer materials. "A project like this really reflects that shift in the underlying economics and the competitiveness of solar," she says. "One reason Austin Energy decided to contract for such a large amount of electricity is precisely because it was so competitively priced."
For now, Recurrent’s keeping mum on where exactly in West Texas the solar farm will be built, but construction will begin in 2015.