By Kouros Maghsoudi, Environment Texas intern
Providing further evidence that Austin is becoming a “National Leader in Solar Energy,” local universities, communities, and businesses have been inspired to invest in solar energy. The economic, health, and environmental benefits of solar energy are becoming more and more apparent throughout the city, gaining support from both politicians and constituents. Over 20 city council candidates openly support solar energy, in addition to many more who have expressed their support for renewable energy. Some notable advocates who have not only vocally supported solar energy, but have taken action include Huston-Tillotson University and Austin Energy.
Achieving national headlines with their zero-waste “dumpster home,” and seizing first place in Ford’s nationwide HBCU Community Challenge, Huston-Tillotson University is at it again with their recently approved 185 kilowatt solar energy system (big enought to power 30 homes). The solar installation will help this East Austin university reduced their utility bill, allowing them to steer more money into their university programs. The solar panels will reduce pollution equal to planting more than 5,000 trees and save 150,000 gallons of water per year. HTU is not only reducing their carbon footprint and their costs, but they are setting a precedent for universities nationwide to use open roof space for free, clean energy.
Moreover in East Austin, Austin Energy is seeking approval from City Council to install Austin’s first Community Solar Farm. The solar farm, a 3.2 megawatt facility strong enough to power 500 homes, will be located off Springdale road in a lot expanding 26 acres. This neglected patch of land, known to harbor illegal activity, has very little real estate value since it neighbors a railroad track. With this community solar farm, nearby residents can obtain a portion of their energy from solar energy, thus providing clean energy access to those who can not afford to install panels on their rooftops. The excess energy generated will be redirected into the statewide electric grid, further increasing Texas’ renewable energy usage.
Whether solar is being installed in abandoned lots, or university rooftops, we at Environment Texas continue to applaud those whom are joining the renewable energy movement. The need to phase out 19th century energy sources is vital, yet impossible without local efforts like seen in Austin.
Maghsoudi is a student at the University of Texas at Austin.