El Paso Electric's solar power generation in Texas is extremely dim when compared with the city-owned electric utilities in San Antonio and Austin, which lead the state in solar energy installations, shows a new report from an Austin environmental group.
However, when El Paso Electric's New Mexico solar power is included, the El Paso utility is on the same level as the other Texas cities.
San Antonio and Austin's electric utilities account for 85 percent of the state's solar power installations, reported the Environment Texas Research and Policy Center in Austin in a report published this month.
The report was done to show how most utilities in the state are lagging far behind on solar power, and to drum up support
for proposed Texas legislation that would require increased solar use by Texas utilities and encourage more solar development by Texas cities, said Luke Metzger, director of the environmental group.
The fact that El Paso Electric gets most of its solar energy from New Mexico solar projects shows the power of state mandates, Metzger said.
El Paso Electric's been forced by New Mexico mandates to use more solar power and other renewable energy sources in that state while Texas has minimal requirements for utilities to use solar, wind, or other renewable energy sources, Metzger said.
The Texas Legislature and the Texas Public Utility Commission need to mandate more use of solar power because that will improve the environment
and will allow Texas to cash in on its abundant sunshine, especially in West Texas, he said.
Texas tops the nation in wind energy with 9 percent of the state's electricity generated from wind generators, Metzger said. But the state ranks 13th in the nation in the amount of electricity generated by solar, he reported.
Rocky Miracle, vice president of corporate planning and development for El Paso Electric, said the utility would like to put more solar projects in El Paso, but, he said, building solar projects is more economical in New Mexico because of that state's incentives and mandates. The company has contracts to buy solar power from several New Mexico solar projects built by solar developers.
The largest solar project supplying El Paso Electric so far is in Santa Teresa, near El Paso's West Side. NRG Energy's solar plant has 340,000 photovoltaic solar panels that can produce up to 20 megawatts of electricity -- enough power to supply 6,600 homes in El Paso Electric's two-state system.
San Antonio's CPS Energy has Texas solar installations totalling 52.6 megawatts, or 73 watts per customer; Austin Energy has 41.3 megawatts of solar, or 99 watts per customer; Oncor, which serves the Dallas area, has only 9.9 megawatts of solar, or 3 watts per Texas customer; and El Paso Electric has only 1.5 megawatts of Texas solar installations, or 5 watts per Texas customer, Environment Texas' report shows.
Even though El Paso Electric's solar installations in Texas are minimal, its 5 watts of solar power per Texas customer ranks third in the state, albeit a very distant third.
However, if you add up the four major solar projects in New Mexico providing power to El Paso Electric, the utility has 48.5 megawatts of solar power, second to San Antonio. That solar power is used by customers in both New Mexico and in El Paso.
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