EGEB: Texas residential solar slow to grow, Minnesota city to run on solar, and more

In today’s EGEB:

  • Residential solar isn’t keeping pace in the Texas energy boom.
  • Minnetonka, Minnesota to run city facilities and infrastructure on 100% solar by year’s end.
  • In Lansing, a similar plan may fail.
  • Australian Labor party to propose $1 billion for public school solar power.
  • West Virginia takes a look at its potential for renewables.

Electrek Green Energy Brief: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Texas is experiencing an energy boom. Oil and gas drilling operations are continuing at an incredible pace, to the point where a burgeoning solar boom is fueling that boom. There are big solar projects in the works. And wind capacity in the state far outpaces the rest of the US.

One area that’s been left behind, however, is residential solar. The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas took a look at residential solar in the state, which only makes up 0.1% of all electricity generation in Texas and lags behind many other states.

The Dallas Fed pinpointed three main reasons for this: Texas has no net metering policy, it already has low electricity prices, and the state’s low renewable energy targets aren’t helping matters, either. There’s just not much incentive for homeowners to pursue solar the way things currently stand.

Minnesota Solar

Minnetonka, Minnesota (pop. 53,000) is set to become one of the few cities in the US to have all its city facilities and infrastructure — city buildings, street lights, and water systems — run solely on solar energy.

The city announced it will become fully powered by solar later this year upon the completion of additional solar gardens through Xcel Energy’s Solar Garden program. Currently, Minnetonka gets 50 percent of its power through solar. The solar gardens are in a neighboring county, the Sun Sailor reports.

Minnetonka only pays $18,000 per year to participate in the Solar Garden program. The city estimates it will save about $500,000 per year, or $12.5 million over a 25-year period, through its commitment to solar.

Lansing Unlikely

Meanwhile, another medium-sized Midwestern city is turning the other direction, as efforts to do something similar in Lansing, Mich. look to fail. Mayor Andy Schor revealed a plan to power all 187 municipal buildings with renewable energy by July 1, but the city council has other ideas.

Lansing City Pulse reports that council members would like to see the money go elsewhere. Council member Brian Jackson said,

“It doesn’t increase the city’s energy usage or do anything to generate more renewable energy. We’re buying credits that are going toward some other company. I don’t think it’s a good use of our money at all. I think we should spend it wisely on something that might actually make a real difference.”

Unlike Minnetonka, which has relatively little expense to go all solar due to Xcel’s Solar Gardens program, Lansing’s plan would require a nearly 10% cost increase.

Furthermore, the Board of Water & Light’s GreenWise energy program comes mostly from energy credits which in this case, mostly come from…landfill gas, which technically qualifies as renewable.

Australian Solar Schools

Australia’s federal election in mid-May has already stoked a national debate on electric vehicles, and now the country’s Labor party is pledging up to $1 billion to install solar panels at thousands of public schools, The Canberra Times reports.

Labor’s plan uses Australia’s Clean Energy Finance Corporation fund to offer loans to energy companies, which would use the school solar panels to generate power. The plan involves using virtual power plants to put energy into the electricity grid.

WV Renewables

The most recent Solar Congress in Charleston, W. Va. saw advocates discussing the state’s potential for renewables, the Herald-Dispatch reports. West Virginia is well-known as a coal state, but considering the bleak future of the fossil fuel, it behooves the state to start looking at capitalizing on other, growing forms of energy.

Strategist Joey James said more companies are seeking renewable energy, and the state may be denying itself opportunities if it doesn’t adjust. James believes there’s great solar potential in the state, with hundreds of potential locations available. But a number of challenges, including a lack of state policies supporting renewable development, could hamper those possibilities.

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