Texas Sees Rapid Growth in Solar Power Capacity, Jobs
SAN ANTONIO - The solar-power industry in Texas has grown consistently in the past few years, but its advocates say clouds on the horizon could slow that progress.
Research from the Solar Foundation showed that employment in solar-industry jobs grew 34 percent in Texas last year, and the number of jobs in that sector has doubled since 2013. Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas, said it is remarkable progress in a state traditionally dominated by oil and gas energy.
"Texas had historically been lagging behind the rest of the country, even though we have the best solar resources," he said. "But now we are really catching up, in terms of both the total solar installations, the total solar jobs - and the projections for the growth are very encouraging."
While renewable-energy resources are growing, Metzger said high fees for transmission lines and a regulatory structure that favors carbon-based energy are impeding progress. Despite that, he said state officials are projecting renewable-power capacity in Texas could grow as much as 1,000 percent by 2030.
Metzger said a changing political landscape and energy-market forces present other challenges for the solar industry in the Lone Star State.
"There are some things that potentially could hinder that growth," he said, "the Trump administration rollbacks of environmental standards, as well as the variability around the price of natural gas."
Metzger said San Antonio recently was ranked seventh in the country for installed solar capacity. He said having a city-owned electric utility gives San Antonio an advantage.
"They have a very robust rebate program to help people install solar," he said. "They have a community solar program that helps people who live in apartments or have shaded roofs buy into kind of a small solar farm, and then the utility itself is making major investments in utility-scale solar farms."
California leads the United States in both solar capacity and solar-industry jobs, according to the Solar Energy Industry Association, which ranks Texas sixth in solar capacity and third in jobs.
The Environment Texas report is online at environmenttexas.org and the solar jobs report is at thesolarfoundation.org.