Austin will soon shine as a way that Texas can show off its solar bonafides. The city’s utility announced today (Dec. 21) that it’s giving more of its low-income residents a chance to go solar with community solar even as it signs what may be the lowest-cost power-purchase agreement (PPA) for solar power in the US.
“Austin wants to shrink its carbon footprint,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “We’re doing that by getting a majority of our power from renewable sources. Now, with the new low-income community solar rate, more people can go green—and save money doing it.”
While the two events aren’t necessarily connected, they show the direction Texas’ Capitol is heading in. On Dec. 14, Austin Energy announced that the city council approved its plans to source 51 percent of its electric generation from renewable sources by 2020. At the same time it announced that it signed a PPA for energy from a new, 150-megawatt solar power plant, which industry observers are noting may be the lowest-cost solar project in the US yet.
The annual cost for the new 150 MW project is between $10 and $12 million per year for 15 years. GTM Research Analyst Colin Smith estimated that will likely cost between $23.50 and $27.25 per megawatt hour but could be as low as $21 per MWh.
“It’s a pretty bold statement to announce this at this particular time,” Smith said, acknowledging that still unresolved trade tariff case could impact the cost of the project. “It shows, particularly on Austin Energy’s part, a real confidence in the industry of what the low cost of solar energy can still provide them.”
Meanwhile, the utility announced that it would give 200 of its low-income Customer Assistance Program (CAP) participants a chance to get 100 percent of their electricity from solar energy at a rate below their current rates without installing solar on their homes. Instead they’ll get it from the utility’s newest community solar site, the 2.5 megawatt La Loma Community Solar Project in East Austin.
“Half of all the solar energy produced by the La Loma community solar farm will go to low-income residents,” said Council Member Sabino Renteria, who represents the district. The project is expected to serve about 400 customers in all. “Our community wants local solar-powered electricity that can be accessed by those who don’t have the means for rooftop solar. I am proud of what this project is accomplishing.”
It’s Austin Energy’s second foray into community solar. Its first project launched a year ago with the 185 kilowatt array at the Palmer Events Center. Already Austin Energy customers have signed up to punches all of the power from that project for the next 15 years. The utility also observed that more than 200 customers have signed on to its community solar wait list for future projects.
“Austin Energy’s Community Solar Program is another great example of what happens when the City Council, the community and the utility work together to drive value for all of our customers,” said Jackie Sargent, General Manager of Austin Energy. “Our new program will help bring the benefits of our local solar offerings to even more of our customers.
The new utility-scale project and and the city council’s approval for Austin Energy’s plans will ensure that even more of its residents will benefit from solar power. While it has an interim goal of 51 percent renewable energy it aims to source 65 percent of its energy from renewables by 2027, increasing its overall solar capacity at least 950 MWs by 2025.Tweet