Austin, Texas approves another 162 MW of solar projects

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Austin is on a path to become the most solar-powered city not only in Texas, but the entire United States. Today the Austin City Council approved 8-2-1 another set of contracts for approximately 162 MW of solar PV.

This follows the approval of contracts for roughly 288 MW of projects on October 1. Under the city’s solar goal set last November, City Council had the authority to approve up to 600 MW of contracts, but has settled for 450 MW.

According to an analysis by Environment Texas, Austin is on track for solar to represent roughly 13% of of its electricity generation by 2017. In order to qualify for the 30% federal Investment Tax Credit these projects must come online in this timeframe.

Austin Energy will need to build another 150 MW by the end of 2019, provided that it is available and affordable. The second criteria does not appear to be much of an issue, as the latest set of contracts were at $38-$40/MWh, a similar range to the first 288 MW.

Cyrus Reed, Conservation Director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, notes that in addition to low prices, there are other economic benefits. “This deal is another hedge against the volatility of prices in the fossil fuel market,” says Reed. “It is a win for the environment, a win for clean energy, and a win for Austin ratepayers.”

Were this 450 MW and another 150 MW contracted with Recurrent Energy to be added to the city’s existing 30 MW Webberville plant and an estimated 40 MW of distributed solar, Austin would have roughly 670 MW of solar. But as distributed solar continues to be built, this number will doubtless by higher by 2017.

Correction: This article was modified at 9:30 AM U.S. Eastern Time to reflect a correction made by Environment Texas to the date by when they expect Austin to reach 13% solar.