Solar Coming on Strong in Texas, and Across the Country

August 25, 2015

Part 2 of my interview with Austin, TX Electric Utility Commissioner Michael Osborne. Part one here.

We talked about an unexpected synergy between Texas oil men and a new breed of Solar wildcatters. In West Texas, where an oil boom has been in progress, (up to the last few months, see elsewhere on this page) – electric transmission is not well developed.  Oil wells require steady supplies of electricity, which has driven up prices locally – motivating solar entrepreneurs to come in and meet the demand – which in turn revs up the solar market, lowering prices across Texas, and elsewhere…


SunEdison Inc., the biggest clean-energy developer, began construction on a Colorado solar farm that will be the largest in the state and comes out ahead in direct competition with natural gas.

The 156-megawatt Comanche solar farm will deliver power to Excel Energy Inc.’s Public Service of Colorado utility under a 25-year agreement, Maryland Heights, Missouri-based SunEdison said in a statement Thursday. The utility awarded the contract through an open solicitation, with the solar farm beating out other power sources including gas, SunEdison said.

The deal shows that renewable energy is increasingly able to compete on price with fossil fuels. Utilities that are planning for future demand growth are looking more carefully at solar panels and wind turbines, which will be cheaper to operate over the next few decades in part because they have no fuel costs, said Julie Blunden, chief strategy officer at SunEdison.

“We actually can offer solar and wind that’s cheaper than gas,” Blunden said in a phone interview Thursday. “It’s such an important inflection point. We can sell power without any fuel-price risk.”

PV Tech:

An administrative judge in the US state of Minnesota has ruled solar generation to be a better investment than natural gas for electric and natural gas utility, Xcel Energy.

The judgment is the first time in the US that unsubsidised solar energy has been officially ruled to be a better deal for ratepayers than natural gas in a competitive bidding process.

The competitive bidding of utility-scale generation projects was ordered by Minnesota’s Public Utilities Commission to choose the most cost-effective projects to help Xcel reach what the commission said was an additional 150MW of new capacity needed by 2017.

Administrate judge Eric Lipman compared five energy resources to determine the most cost-efficient generation to meet forecast energy shortfalls. A 100MW PV project by Minnesota-based utility-scale wind and solar developer, Geronimo Energy, was chosen over the others.

Geronimo proposed to build 20 solar parks, across 17 counties in Minnesota – some as big as 70 acres and costing an estimated US$250 million. Named the ‘Aurora Solar Project’, Geronimo’s solar project would receive no state or utility subsidies, but would qualify for a federal investment tax credit. The Aurora project is approved, with completion expected by 2016.

In his ruling Lipman said the project was the best way for Xcel to meet its near-term needs.

Science Alert:

The world’s largest solar power station will be built in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh over the next 18 months, government officials announced over the weekend. The 750-megawatt (MW) facility will be built on barren government-owned land in the country’s Rewa district, and when complete will positively dwarf the current world’s largest solar power project – the 392-MW Ivanpah Solar Power Facility in the Mojave desert of California.

“Global tenders for commissioning the solar power station in an area over 1,500 hectares (15 km²) at Bandwar region in Gudh tehsil of Rewa, will be invited shortly,” Madhya Pradesh’s Energy Minister Rajendra Shukla told the press. He said they planned to have the plant up and running by March 2017.

PV Tech:

Indian prime minister Narendra Modi has described solar energy as the “ultimate solution” to India’s energy problems and called on domestic scientists to work on developing more efficient solar equipment.

Addressing 30 scientists from institutions across India, Modi highlighted the country’s emerging critical issues of water and energy. He asked the domestic scientific community to research and develop concepts for global leadership in this technology ahead of the upcoming COP21 UN climate conference in Paris.

However, he added that Indian science is currently constrained by a “silo approach”, which should be ended by encouraging greater coordination and establishing a multi-disciplinary environment for research.

He said that developing more efficient equipment for the solar industry could revolutionise the sector.

Modi has put solar energy high on the agenda since coming to power last year by approving the increase of the national solar target from 22GW to 100GW by 2022. Alongside power minister Piyush Goyal, he has also pledged to give all Indians access to electricity, which would involve a significant increase in coal-fired power capacity. Nevertheless, a recent Deutsche Bank report forecast that investment in solar energy in India could surpass investment in coal by as early as 2019.

4 Responses to “Solar Coming on Strong in Texas, and Across the Country”

  1. rayduray Says:


    The sound levels on you video need adjustment. You are LOUD. Michael’s voice is very quiet in comparison.

  2. Wes Says:

    Unfortunately the big utility – AZ Public Service – is raising a fee for solar from $5 to $21 and killing the market. Most people don’t pay any attention to the Corporation Commission, but this is an example of why they should.

    The Phx Business Journal put it this way: “The ACC’s two newest members – Tom Forese and Doug Little – face criticism over receiving $3 million in so-called “dark money” support in last year’s election that was widely thought to be provided by APS.” How convenient!

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