Houston, you now have solar power

Houston, your solar power future awaits.

On Friday, the city announced it will be purchasing 10.5% of its energy from the SolaireHolman utility-scale power plant located eight hours away in Alpine, Texas. The plant is one of the largest solar installations in Texas and was constructed by Solairedirect North America, a subsidiary of French energy giant ENGIE. The city will purchase the power under a 20-year power-purchase agreement.

“As the energy capital of the world, it is important that Houston lead by example and show that investing in solar and renewable energy is a critical tool cities must use to prepare for the future,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “As the nation’s largest municipal purchaser of green power, we are living proof that large, industrial cities like Houston can have a robust economy but also help fight climate change.”

Houston is just the latest Texas city to derive a significant amount of its power from solar energy, following cities like Georgetown, San Antonio and Austin. The former hardscrabble oil town’s announcement comes barely a week after El Paso sold out subscriptions to its month-old community solar program in less than a month.

Texas has long been a leader in renewable energy. Under former governor Rick Perry (now Secretary of Energy in the Trump Administration), the wind industry thrived with help from the state and federal government. Solar is now receiving similar support, and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) has predicted the city will add 5.7 GW of solar power in the next five years.

If that much solar is added, it would catapult the state into the No. 2 position in the Top 10 Solar States as ranked by SEIA. It currently ranks No. 9. Houston has ranked No. 1 in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Top 30 Local Government list of the largest green power users, consuming nearly 1 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of green power annually. That number represents more than 89% of its total energy needs.

One of Texas’ largest solar installations, the SolaireHolman project includes 203,840 solar panels on 360 acres, providing electricity for Houston locations like the Hermann Park Zoo, the Bob Lanier Public Works Building, wastewater treatment plants, and several Bush Intercontinental Airport terminals.