Last week (Oct. 1) Austin’s utility, Austin Energy, approved a plan that would invest $33 million in 300 megawatts of solar projects to supply energy needs for its customers. Though the utility hasn’t announced all the projects this investment will cover, the cost of the projects will be roughly 3.8 cents per kilowatt hour—the lowest seen in Texas and likely one of the lowest costs for solar power to date!
At the meeting Austin’s city council approved a 15-year purchase power agreement (PPA) for 118 megawatts of solar energy from East Pecos Solar. It also gave the go-ahead to enter into contracts for up to another 182 megawatts of solar power. Austin Energy has been finding record deals for solar since it announced plans to significantly expand its use of solar power.
Contracts for that additional power are not yet announced. Under the PPA Austin Energy will pay an estimated $13 million a year for the life of the contract. When the projects come online in 2017 Austin Energy’s customers will start receiving 40 percent of their electric from renewable sources. Of that, 450 megawatts will be solar power.
The utility said the contracts may impact customers’ bills, adding less than one-half of one percent to their bills during the first four years of production. After that they are expected to have no impact or even positively impact customers’ bills.
At under 4 cents per kilowatt hour solar is competing with the lowest-cost forms of electric generation in the country. The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory’s (LBL’s) latest “Utility-Scale Solar” that the average wholesale electric costs in the U.S. in 2014 ranged from 3 cents per kilowatt hour to 6 cents per kilowatt hour. That puts the solar requisition by Austin Energy firmly in the space of lowest-cost energy sources in the U.S.
“With this purchase, the citizens of the Austin region will reduce their total carbon impact in a prudent and affordable way,” said Mayor Steve Adler. “I’m excited we can take such bold action at a cost that fits within Austin Energy’s risk and price affordability standards.”
The city council also is debating whether to add 300 more megawatts of solar power to its electric grid but postponed voting on that until Oct. 15.Tweet