San Antonio, now 6th in nation, lauded for solar growth

By on April 16, 2014

San Antonio ranks 6th in the nation for installed solar power, according to a report published last week by the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center, thanks to robust growth in both utility scale and rooftop solar.

“Solar power is booming across the country and San Antonio is at the forefront,” said Luke Metzger, director of the statewide environmental advocacy organization, which released Shining Cities: At the Forefront of America’s Solar Energy Revolution on Thursday. “San Antonio’s leadership is tapping in to this clean energy source means the sun is rising for a solar future.”

The report credits the leadership of CPS Energy and its aggressive goal of using renewable power to meet 20 percent of electricity demand by 2020, with at least 100 MW coming from non wind sources.

The utility has almost reached that goal already, with 89.4 MW of installed utility scale solar. That includes 49 MW of CPS Energy’s landmark 400 MW solar deal, which is also bringing solar component manufacturing and hundreds of jobs to San Antonio.

The agreement with OCI Solar Power, Mission Solar and other partners is a centerpiece of CPS Energy’s New Energy Economy initiative, which leverages the utility’s clean energy investments to create jobs, build a manufacturing base and boost investment in STEM education and research.

The momentum in rooftop solar is just as strong. Today, nearly 1,600 homes and businesses around the city generate more than 15 MW of clean, sustainable power.

Since 2010, San Antonio has seen a 400% increase in rooftop solar, with a 160% increase from 2012 to 2013 alone. CPS Energy paid out a record of more than $9 million in solar pv rebates last year, out of a total of $30 million since 2007.

While rebates have been a driving factor, the robust growth of solar is also credit to the work of Solar San Antonio, whose founder, Bill Sinkin, worked tirelessly until his death earlier this year at age 100 to promote the sun’s energy.

Now headed by his son, Lanny Sinkin, Solar San Antonio created the “Bring Solar Home” campaign, which offers residents three free solar quotes, and has worked with local lending institutions to pave the way for more affordable financing.

“Rooftop solar is now providing hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars in economic activity in the San Antonio economy with an unlimited potential for growth,” said Sinkin.

To continue the momentum, CPS Energy is working to expand the growth of rooftop solar through community solar and solar leasing programs, as well as an extension of the utility’s popular rebate program.

“We hope to have more news on these programs soon,” said CEO Doyle Beneby, who recently told a group of engineers, economists, policymakers, lawyers and other experts in the electric utility industry that CPS Energy would not bury its head in the sand in the face of distributed solar and other technologies threatening to upend utilities traditional business model.

 “Let’s hold hands with the people who are disrupting the industry and figure out collectively better ways” to create, distribute and manage energy, he said in his keynote address at the 4th annual Austin Electricity Conference.

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