HOUSTON – The amount of power generated by solar photovoltaic (PV) installations in Houston continued to increase last year, according to a new report from Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. The report, Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America, found that Houston went from 8 megawatts (MW) of solar PV in 2016 to 9.5 MW in 2017, a 19% gain.
“Cities like Houston are leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Brian Zabcik, Clean Air & Water Advocate at Environment Texas. “By tapping into more of our vast solar energy potential, we can benefit from cleaner air and fight climate change.”
Houston ranked 34th for total solar capacity among the 69 cities surveyed in Shining Cities. The city has 4.1 watts of solar installed per capita. Houston has the potential to go much further on solar. According to the Environment Texas report, the city could generate 4,605 MW if solar panels were installed on all available small buildings.
“Solar makes sense for Houston and I hope to see the use of solar grow in our community,” said Mayor Sylvester Turner. "With the launch of our solar power purchase agreement last year, 10% of the City of Houston’s municipal operations – including the Hermann Park Zoo, waste water treatment plants, and several Bush Intercontinental Airport terminals – are now powered by solar. Investing in renewable energy helps build a cleaner, healthier, more resilient city and taking action against climate change.” This week Mayor Turner joined the Mayors for Solar Energy coalition.
The top city in Texas for solar is San Antonio, which ranked 6th in Shining Cities with 161 MW of total solar capacity and 108 watts of per capita solar. Los Angeles was the top-ranked city nationally, with 349 MW of installed solar. Honolulu ranked number one for per capita installed solar, with 606 watts per person.
“Solar energy is a critical tool that helps cities increase resilience and reduce carbon pollution while expanding the local energy services economy, encouraging job growth, and increasing competitiveness,” said Marina Badoian-Kriticos, Regional Program Advisor for the Texas PACE Authority. Badoian-Kriticos added, “Local governments leading by example through market engagement and collaboration are key to making positive change.” Texas PACE makes low-interest loans for business solar installations.
Houston Renewable Energy Group, one of the main local advocates for solar, oversees a nonprofit group purchasing program for homes and businesses called Solarize Houston. “Every enrollee in Houston and beyond can save from our competitive bid process,” said Dori Wolfe of Wolfe Energy. “Last year we contracted over 200 kW, saving homeowners and businesses between 15-20%. We make going solar easy and affordable.” The program will soon be taking enrollments for 2018.
According to a new census of solar jobs by the Solar Foundation, 459 people work in the solar industry in Harris County.
“As a nation we talk about energy independence,” said Richard Sherwood, CEO and Founder of Adaptive Solar, Houston's oldest operating solar installer. “The future is here today, if you have an energy-efficient house, a solar system can provide enough energy for your family as well as an electric car.”
Shining Cities is the fifth annual report from Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. Each year, the survey ranks around 70 of the nation’s major cities by megawatts of solar energy. The report includes recommendations for cities to expand their solar use, including setting ambitious goals for solar energy adoption, adopting policies to promote or require “solar ready” or zero net energy homes, and installing solar on municipal buildings and schools.