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Texas city staunchly right wing, just saving money with 100% renewable energy

Flag-USATexas city opts for 100% renewable energy – to save cash, not the planet, Guardian,  in Georgetown, 29 Mar 15 Georgetown, Texas decision not about going green: ‘I’m probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find,’ says city official News that a Texas city is to be powered by 100% renewable energy sparked surprise in an oil-obsessed, Republican-dominated state where fossil fuels are king and climate change activists were described as “the equivalent of the flat-earthers” by US senator and GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz.

“I was called an Al Gore clone, a tree-hugger,” says Jim Briggs, interim city manager of Georgetown, a community of about 50,000 people some 25 miles north of Austin.

Briggs, who was a key player in Georgetown’s decision to become the first city in the Lone Star State to be powered by 100% renewable energy, has worked for the city for 30 years. He wears a belt with shiny silver decorations and a gold ring with a lone star motif, and is keen to point out that he is not some kind of California-style eco-warrior with a liberal agenda. In fact, he is a staunchly Texan pragmatist.

“I’m probably the furthest thing from an Al Gore clone you could find,” he says. “We didn’t do this to save the world – we did this to get a competitive rate and reduce the risk for our consumers.”

solar,-wind-aghast

In many Texas cities the electricity market is deregulated, meaning that customers choose from a dizzying variety of providers and plans. In Houston, for example, there are more than 70 plans that offer energy from entirely renewable sources.

That makes it easy to switch, so in a dynamic marketplace, providers tend to focus on the immediate future. This discourages the creation of renewable energy facilities, which require long-term investment to be viable. But in Georgetown, the city utility company has a monopoly.

When its staff examined their options last year, they discovered something that seemed remarkable, especially in Texas: renewable energy was cheaper than non-renewable. And so last month city officials finalised a deal with SunEdison, a giant multinational solar energy company. It means that by January 2017, all electricity within the city’s service area will come from wind and solar power.

In 2014, the city signed a 20-year agreement with EDF for wind power from a forthcoming project near Amarillo. Taking the renewable elements up to 100%, SunEdison will build plants in west Texas that will provide Georgetown with 150 megawatts of solar power in a deal running from 2016 or 2017 to 2041. With consistent and reliable production the goal, the combination takes into account that wind farms generate most of their energy in the evenings, after the sun has set…….

while west Texas is an oil driller’s paradise, it is also sunny and gusty, making it a perfect corridor for renewable energy.

The region bordering New Mexico is one of the prime solar resource sites in the USand the wind whistles across the plains to such an extent that, as Scientific American pointed out last year, the state is America’s largest wind power producer – as well as leading the nation in the production of crude oil and the emission of greenhouse gases.

Renewable energy also uses much less water than traditional power generation – a bonus in a state where half the land and more than nine million people are affected by drought conditions, though Briggs said that for Georgetown, water conservation was only a “side benefit”………

Outside, Jon Klopf, a barber, sat on a bench enjoying a splendidly sunny Thursday afternoon.

“They were just looking out for the cheapest deal. That’s just business,” the 50-year-old said. “I don’t really think we should be relying too much on oil, even though they have to right now. That don’t last forever.

“Sun will, though. Long as the sun comes up, the wind will blow.”http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/28/georgetown-texas-renewable-green-energy

March 30, 2015 - Posted by | renewable, USA

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