PowerFin Texas Solar Projects, LLC, a solar development firm based in Austin and San Antonio, recently executed a 25-year power purchase agreement (PPA) for the sale of up to 3.2 megawatts of solar electricity to Austin Energy. This is the first project of a much larger Community Solar program, the goal of which is to provide more equitable access to solar throughout the community while generating significant local economic benefits. The contemplated site of the initial Community Solar project is in an economic redevelopment area in east downtown Austin.
Community solar reduces the barriers of solar adoption to all electricity customers. In Austin, local solar has been available only to home and building owners who could afford the high upfront costs required to own a solar generating system. This program will provide electricity customers who cannot install solar, whether due to funding or site constraints, an affordable off-site option to stabilize their electricity budgets. Local solar enables cost savings by mitigating the need for transmission lines to remote areas and the need to burn fuel.
Community solar also provides significant local economic benefits. As published by an Austin City Council-appointed Local Solar Advisory Committee, for every 200 megawatts of local solar, $360 million of total local economic value is created. Therefore, this initial project should generate approximately $6 million of local economic value, including the creation of "green collar" jobs.
Integration of solar, particularly in regulated service areas like Austin, is complicated. In a statement by Becky Klein, former Chairman of the Texas Public Utilities Commission and current advisor to PowerFin, "Unlike most solar companies, PowerFin has the deep technical, regulatory, and financial expertise to integrate solar into the community and the grid in a seamless and beneficial manner."
As stated by Tuan Pham, PowerFin’s President, "With approximately $150 million of completed solar projects, we are excited to apply our experience in our community. Providing tangible value is PowerFin’s mission, and we look forward to integrating affordable and reliable solar into the existing grid."