Photo credit: dherrera_96
Texas is famous for having its own way of doing things, for its “rugged” individualism and Lone Star attitude. That sort of bootstraps ambition has resulted in some amazing accomplishments for Texas, including being the backbone of an oil-based economy that helped make the United States the most powerful nation of the 20th Century. In the new millennium, however, times are inevitably changing. In some ways Texas is leading once again, most notably as our national leader in wind power production.
Yet wind is not Texas’ only abundant renewable resource. It is also a very sunny state. Nevertheless, in a move somewhat baffling to state solar advocates, the Texas state legislature recently and roundly refused several solar proposals that could have transformed the Lone Star State into an all-around renewable energy giant. In fact, from the side of solar advocacy, it could hardly be described as anything but a slap in the face.
The rejection was three fold:
First, a proposed change to Texas’ renewable energy standard that would have incorporated stricter requirements for solar, biomass, and geothermal power failed.
Second, at the last minute of the state’s congressional session, a $500 million appropriation of funding for state solar rebates was left withering in the dust.
Third, a bill to make it more difficult for homeowners’ associations to ban solar panels—a notion widely accepted as archaic and inane—also failed at the last minute.
Photo credit: The Solar Company
According to state solar energy advocates, the biggest failure, the one that would have allowed for solar rebates, would have cost Texas homeowners just 20 cents extra per month on their utility bills. Still many state legislators balked at the idea of higher electricity rates.
If there is a silver lining it lies in the only solar legislation that did pass: a Berkeley-esque bill that will allow homeowners to finance their solar systems with help from the local government and then pay it back via property tax increases over 20 years.
This holdup is nothing to shrug off either. The Texas legislature will not meet again for two years. So barring a gubernatorial call for a special session, solar power in Texas will have to wait until at least 2011 for another chance at success. Considering the expected growth of the solar industry in that time, this delay could spell a huge loss for Texas solar fans and many in the state who might otherwise have been employed by coulda-woulda-shoulda solar projects. One Texas-based solar startup is already planning to move on to New Mexico where solar incentives are more inviting.