Texas Senate approves tight permit restrictions on solar and wind


The Senate of the state of Texas voted 21-9 in favor of SB 624, a bill that would place significant permitting restrictions and fines on solar and wind energy projects in the state. A companion bill now heads to the House for approval.

Texas is the nation’s leader in wind energy development and is soon to take over as the number one state for solar, leapfrogging California. The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) expects the state to add 36 GW of solar over the next five years, building on the 16 GW that is active to date, and making it the nation’s sterling example of harnessing the sun’s energy.

This boom in growth occurs just as the $369 billion spending package within the Inflation Reduction Act is implemented and rolled out, a law that is further catalyzing the energy transition toward carbon-free power generation.

The Advanced Power Alliance projects that in 2024, renewable generation in ERCOT will deliver $6 billion in net system operating cost savings and more than 18,000 MW of reliable capacity contributions.

However, state legislators have taken aim at the industry, despite the economic boom that has come with it. Texas lawmakers showed their support for SB 624 in late April.

The law singles out solar and wind facilities, requiring them to obtain a permit from the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas, while leaving out fossil fuels from the requirement. Gov. Abbott, who has long shown an affinity for fossil fuels, has appointed all the PUC members, who now would act as gatekeepers for any renewable energy project.

Additionally, SB 624 assigns a new yearly fee to be paid by renewable energy developers. It would also require developers to pull a permit any time significant changes need to be made to existing projects. Under the law, each new project would be required to undergo a new environmental impact study.

The law would also require that developers provide an affidavit that lists the names and addresses of the persons who may be affected by the project. Developers would also be required to give notice of the project application to any property owner within 25 miles of the boundary of the facility. This opens the door for “not in my back yard” arguments, even for individuals living many miles away.

Furthermore, the bill states that the commission “on its own motion or after reasonable notice and hearing” can require permit holders to conform to “new or additional conditions.” The commission can require renewable energy projects to be at least 500 feet away from any property line and at least 1000 feet away from any habitable structure. Developers would have to provide a signed waiver from the neighboring property owners to be able to proceed with a project.

The law places existing renewable energy projects at risk by retroactively applying permit requirements to these sites. It vests the Commission with the power to enter project sites and remove installed clean energy capacity if it does not meet the newly-established tightened permits.

“The onerous proposal would violate private property rights of Texans and reduce the value of properties who are denied their ability to develop the energy resources on their land,” said the Advanced Power Alliance in a statement. “The bill will drive up the cost of energy for every Texan and would place every power purchase agreement (PPA) in place with corporate customers at risk.”

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