Energy & Environment

Houston Plays a Role in Solar Green Energy Movement

A new report finds solar energy accounts for about three quarters of electricity produced nationwide, and Houston has a role in the green energy movement

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The roof of Houston’s Green Building Resource Center is lined with giant solar panels that help power the building. It’s a facility that promotes solutions to improve the environment.

Program Director Steve Stelzer believes solar energy is the wave of the futures.

“We have more computer power in our smart phones than Neil Armstrong took to the Moon in 1969, and if we had put that kind of attention into solar panels, perhaps we’d be carrying around a little solar panel attached to our wallet that could power our car. And I think with the renewed interest from everyone ordering these solar panels, we’re just gonna see the supply meeting the demand,” says Stelzer.

A new report by Environment Texas, a statewide, citizen-funded group that advocates for a cleaner environment, shows strong solar growth across the country. Texas saw a 45% increase in 2013, but director Luke Metzger says Houston was ranked 44th in the country.

“Houston is playing catch-up for sure, and Houston has some challenges in that. Houston doesn’t own its own electric utility, so that makes it tougher to be able to just set a goal for solar and make it happen, like Austin and San Antonio have done,” says Metzger. 

He says the city has taken some important steps like installing solar in some municipal buildings and leading by example.

“Definitely doing some great work,” says Metzger. “That’s why we think that a statewide program is really critical to really help cities like Houston, which don’t own their own utilities, to be able to really tap into the sun and take advantage of the resource.”

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, Texas has the lowest price for solar, at about $3.90 cents per watt. As the solar industry grows, the cost for installation decreases. That makes it more accessible and it keeps people like Cal Morton with Texas Solar Outfitters actively engaged.

“We’ve done over a hundred residential installations, we’ve worked on commercial projects,” says Morton. “We’re still a small company that kind of tells you about solar in Houston.”

He too, is concerned about the environment.

“Energy prices are starting to go up,” says Morton. “We have a lot of talk about climate change and we’re running out of water in the state of Texas, and people don’t realize it takes more water to generate electricity than we actually drink.”

In the first quarter of 2014, solar energy accounted for 74% of all the new electric generation capacity installed in the United States.

 

Disclosure: Texas Solar Outfitters is a Houston Public Media underwriter.  

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