Austin Energy launches community solar project in Texas

October 2, 2014

Austin Energy customers who are not able to install solar panels at their home can soon subscribe to energy from the sun by being part of a new community solar project in Austin where all residents can participate.

The Austin City Council today gave Austin Energy the go-ahead to negotiate a power purchase agreement with locally based PowerFin Texas Solar Projects or another eligible bidder to receive up to 3.2 megawatts of solar over 25 years.

The project helps fulfill requests by many members of the community who want to participate in a solar program but aren’t able to install solar panels on their roofs.

“Regardless if residents live in apartments, downtown condominium hi-rises or homes shaded by trees, they will now be able to enjoy the benefits of clean, renewable energy from the sun,” said Danielle Murray, Austin Energy Solar Energy Services Manager.

The community solar project will be constructed adjacent to Austin Energy’s Kingsbery substation, northeast of Springdale Road and Airport Boulevard. Because the project will be built on land owned by Austin Energy and distribution and substation infrastructure are already in place, the cost for the solar energy produced is lower than what it would have been otherwise. The long-term fixed price for the solar energy purchased is in the range of $80 to $95 per megawatt hour.

While details of the pricing and program offering for customers are still being developed, Austin Energy estimates that the project will be completed in the summer of 2015.

The project will be one of more than 50 in 17 states in the U.S. often referred to as shared renewables or community solar, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. Shared renewable energy projects enable customers to share the benefits of one local renewable energy plant, specifically a solar plant in the case of community solar.

Community solar in this country includes programs offered by electric cooperatives, investor-owned and municipally owned utilities. Public power utilities similar to Austin Energy with community solar offerings include Salt River Project in Arizona, Sacramento Municipal Utility District in California and Seattle City Light in Washington.

Austin Energy expects to develop more local community solar sites to meet demand as more customers sign up for the program.

“The seeds for community solar have been planted,” Murray said. “The sun and our customers will help nourish and grow the project.”