Wind Energy Provides Cheap Electricity In Texas

The U.S. Energy Information Administration, a government run agency responsible for collecting, analyzing and reporting on energy related matters, is predicting that Texas will continue to break records for electricity provided by wind power.

Peak Texas Wind Electricty

This is not a bold prediction considering that the state has recently put together a string of new all-time highs for wind energy output based on peak supplies of electricity being fed to the state’s grid.  Recent record wind days include the following:

  • October 22, 2015 – 12,238 megawatts
  • October 21, 2015 – 11,950 megawatts
  • September 13, 2015 – 11,467 megawatts
  • February, 2015 – 11,154 megawatts

There are a number of factors at play that are contributing to the recent all-time highs.  This autumn in Texas has been unseasonably warm and windy allowing for the perfect conditions to make use of the state’s large and growing portfolio of wind turbines.

Already the largest producer of wind electricity in the U.S., Texas continues to see more capacity brought online month after month.  This is thanks in large part to generous subsidies paid by the federal government to encourage investment in wind turbines.

One could make the case that the continued growth in wind power is due entirely to government subsidies when you consider that during a period in 2013 and 2014 when the subsidies were allowed to lapse, installation of new wind capacity in Texas and the rest of the country virtually ceased.  The eventual renewal of the subsidies in 2014 saw an immediate resumption of investment in new wind energy capacity in Texas.

Texas Wind Capacity

Unlike fossil fuel sources such as coal and natural gas, the production cost of electricity from wind is almost entirely front loaded in the cost of putting up the turbines.  After they are up, the incremental cost of each additional watt of electricity is negligible.   This, coupled with the bonus money paid by the government for each kilowatt of electricity produced from wind can lead to some very cheap energy for Texas consumers.  In many cases, it leads to free electricity.

To compare electricity providers who offer cheap and sometimes free electricity plans visit

How Solar Power Technology Can Reduce Your Energy Costs And Carbon Footprint

solar energy savingsThis month a team of students from the Stevens Institute of Technology won the Department of Energy’s biennial Solar Decathlon for building the best solar-powered home. Inspired by Hurricane Sandy, the SURE HOUSE, which stands for SUstainable + REsilient, is designed to continue to produce electricity during blackouts by using a solar array in combination with a 60s-style beach house design and boat building materials. The house uses 90 percent less energy than its conventional counterparts and can even supply neighbors with emergency power for electronic devices.

The Solar Decathlon illustrates the Department of Energy’s focus on developing solar technology as a solution for America’s energy future. Solar photovoltaic panels now cost half of what they did in 2011, a trend the DOE seeks to advance with a $53 million research initiative, announced last year, to drive solar energy costs down even further and cut carbon pollution. The DOE estimates that there is now enough solar power being generated every year to power 3.2 million average American homes. Here are a few ways you can use solar power to cut your energy costs and reduce your home’s carbon footprint.


Heating consumes about half the energy of the average home, but you can cut this cost in half by using passive solar heating and cooling, according to the Department of Energy. This strategy uses a home’s location and materials to economize energy use. Active heating strategies add the pumping of solar-heated air or fluid through a home. Relying entirely on active heating is not usually cost-effective, so it is usually used to supplement passive heating.

For existing homes, start with an energy audit before pursuing any solar installations so that you can identify your most efficient potential improvements. When designing new homes, a passive energy strategy requires that part of the south side of your home has an unobstructed view of the sun. Your building designer will need to factor in considerations such as the orientation and size of the windows, the thermal energy absorbed by other materials in your home, how absorbed energy will be distributed through your house, and how to use features such as roof overhangs to prevent summer overheating. After your home is built, be sure to keep south-facing glass clean and to avoid blocking sunlight from hitting heat-absorbing walls or concrete slab floors.

Water heating, your home’s second-biggest energy cost, can also be done more efficiently by using solar power. Here you can select between passive and active systems. The cheapest type of passive option is an Integral Collector Storage (ICS) system, where a solar-heated water storage area heats cold water flowing through it. In more expensive thermosyphon systems, collected warm water rises through a higher storage tank as cooler water sinks. Active systems add circulating pumps and controls to circulate water either directly or indirectly using a heat-transfer fluid and heat exchanger. Which option is best for you depends on your solar resource, climate, and budget.


Using solar-powered lights to illuminate your yard is one of the easiest ways to use solar energy. Have a pool or a hot tub? Save money on your electricity bill and switch to solar power to cut the cost of heating your outdoor pool or hot tub.

In Your Car

For the first time, this year’s Solar Decathlon entrants were required to design their homes to generate enough energy to power a battery-electric vehicle in addition to the residence itself. Contest rules did not permit contestants to store electricity generated from the home’s roof in the car’s battery, but this could be easily done. Meanwhile, Ford has been working on improving the efficiency of solar panels in the roofs of electric cars, according to Consumer Reports. Soon you may be able to power an electric car from your home and car solar panels and leave no carbon footprint.

Texas PUC Agrees To Electricity Fee Rate Hike

Electricity Demand OutlookThe Texas Public Utility Commission has agreed to a rate hike that will affect almost every electricity user in the state.  The rate increase comes in the form of an increase in the “System Administration Fee” collected by ERCOT.  ERCOT is the entity responsible for maintaining the state’s electricity grid.

The fee isn’t charged directly to consumers.  Rather, it is assessed on every kilowatt of electricity purchased from the wholesale electricity market in the state.  Retail electric companies such as TXU, Reliant and Cirro, purchase power from the wholesale market and resell that electricity to end users in the retail market.  Any increase in the wholesale cost of electricity will ultimately be pass through to consumers.

While the Texas electricity market is the largest deregulated market in the country, parts of it are still subject to public oversite.  The PUC must approve fee increases requested by ERCOT.  The system administration fee will be going up 19.4%; taking it from 46.5 cents per megawatt to 55.5 cents per megawatt.

Although the actual impact on Texas electricity rates will be small, consumer groups are still less than thrilled to see rate increases of any kind.   The Texas Coalition for Affordable Power points out that because the fee is based on usage, an increase in the rate along with an increase in the state’s power consumption will result in a net gain in revenue for ERCOT of more than 50% in less than 10 years.

The justification given for the rate increase was the need to finance new technology, comply will new (federal) regulations, and keep pace with inflation.   ERCOT says it hopes to hold the fee steady at least through 2020.

The 3 member panel in charge of the PUC warned ERCOT against getting too comfortable with large rate increases.

“I don’t want to see double digit increases in the future,” said Commissioner Kenneth Anderson.  “This is a one-time deal.”

The increase will go into effect in 2016.

See Also: Capacity Crisis In Texas Electricity May Be Overblown



3 Simple Ways To Save Energy And Money

Solar EnergyWhen it comes to energy conservation, you can now save the planet and your hard-earned money. If you’re ready to adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle, the following practices will help you feel better about your carbon footprint and let you watch the savings pour in.

Take Shorter Showers

To take short showers, here’s a tip: Listen to music while you shower and never stay under running water for longer than two songs — and, ideally, one. The more time you spend getting doused by hot water, the more energy is being used to heat the flow and the more money is running down the drain.

Another counter-intuitive way to reduce water use is to take more showers. If you shower once per day and find yourself routinely taking more than five minutes to get clean, take two quicker showers instead. This method keeps you fresher all day and means you don’t have to stay in the bathroom so long. It’s the perfect blend of time management, water management and budget management.

Invest in Solar Panels

By this point, you should know that low-flow shower heads, energy-efficient lightbulbs and double-paned windows better maintain your indoor temperature. In addition to these simple solutions, consider buying energy-efficient refrigerators and stoves.

The best move you can make, however, is installing solar panels. The only problem is the initial investment; it may take a few years to save enough on electricity to pay for the panels, depending on how cheap your fossil fuel-powered electricity is and how much sunlight your house gets. Google recently came up with a solution for knowing how much solar energy can help your home. Its Project Sunroof estimates the exact amount of sunlight that hits any roof and enables you to measure how long it would take to reap savings off of an initial investment. Unfortunately, it is only available in parts of California and Boston so far, but it will soon be expanding its scope so that everyone can make the most-informed decision.

Take Charge of Your Mobile Device

How many times per day do you charge your devices? Between a laptop, tablet, mobile phone, e-reader and every other gadget in your arsenal, you are likely plugged into the electric grid more often than you would like to admit.

To lessen your impact, maximize each charge. Use your device’s power-saving mode or switch over to airplane mode when you don’t need to be connected. Better still, purchase a phone that has an Ultra Power Saving Mode, like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, that helps your phone last longer and waste less energy.

These moves alone won’t solve global warming, but they help foster a mental shift. The more you look to make the small, no-brainer moves, the more you will find your whole way of thinking change about conservation. And as the baby steps increasingly lead to larger changes, you really will be making a difference and Mother Nature will thank you.

Texas And Oklahoma Ban Fracking Bans

frackingIn Texas, where electricity rates have been on the decline, the natural gas boom has brought about both cheap electricity and bolstered the state’s economy.

The technique of “fracking”, or injecting water in high-pressure jets to fracture shale deposits and release pockets of oil and gas to the surface, has been widely touted by its supporters as a way to achieve energy independence from foreign sources of fuel. We all remember cries of, “Drill, Baby, drill!” echoing throughout the land. In the wake of 2005’s Energy Policy Act, fracking started taking hold, and it has been growing ever since.

Is Fracking Causing Earthquakes?

In the Dallas metro area, which had seen almost no earthquake activity in the 58 years prior to 2008, there have been more than 130 temblors since.  Irving, Texas recently experienced 11 quakes in 24 hours. Oklahoma has been hit particularly hard: Having only had a handful of quakes measuring a magnitude of 3.0 or greater on the Richter scale per year from 1975 to 2008, it has seen a huge increase in seismic activity: In 2009, there were 20 earthquakes measuring 3.0 or greater; in 2011, among almost 60 such quakes, the largest earthquake in Oklahoma’s history, a 5.7 magnitude tremor, occurred. The number of earthquakes has shot up even more since then: 2013 saw 109 such earthquakes, and in 2014 there were 585. Based on numbers so far this year, it’s possible that Oklahoma will have 900 such earthquakes.

In a report issued early in May, researchers at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas concluded that oil and gas activities are “most likely” the cause for the increased seismic activity in the area they studied around the towns of Azle and Reno, near Fort Worth, which sit atop the Barnett Shale, an oil-and-gas-rich geological formation into which 17,500 new wells have been drilled over the past 15 years. The specific activity that could be linked with the quakes is not the fracking itself, but the disposal of wastewater by-product by injecting it, also at high pressure, into deep wells, which apparently causes shifting around existing faults, thereby causing the tremors.

While the SMU report resists drawing a definite conclusion as to cause, the United States Geological Survey doesn’t hedge: A USGS report released in April states that, “Earthquake activity has sharply increased since 2009 in the central and eastern United States. The increase has been linked to industrial operations that dispose of wastewater by injecting it into deep wells.”

States Prevents Cities from Banning Fracking

In its most recent legislative session, The State of Texas passed a law prohibiting local communities from enacting bans on any fracking or drilling activity–including the use of injection wells. This law is seen as a reaction to a municipal ban enacted by the town of Denton in North Texas, whose citizens were concerned about wells that were being drilled in residential areas. The oil and gas industry felt that this ban impinged upon their property rights, and The Texas Oil and Gas Association (TXOGA), along with the state’s General Land office, filed a lawsuit against the City of Denton the day after the ban was passed.

The industry went to the Texas legislature to head off any further municipal uprisings, and House Bill 40, which prohibited any further bans, was born. Passed by the Republican legislature and now signed into law on May 18 by Republican Governor Greg Abbott, who characterized the legislation as a move to limit government bureaucracy.

Denton Residents say the wells have polluted the local water, and there has been increased drilling within 200 feet of schools, public parks, and even homes.

For its own part, after years of denying any link between the burgeoning seismic activity and the growth of the fracking industry, specifically the use of wastewater injection wells, Oklahoma has taken a surprisingly strong step in acknowledging it. The Office of the Oklahoma Secretary of Energy and Environment has created a website called Earthquakes in Oklahoma ( ), which features an interactive earthquake map that shows how earthquakes have gone from being very few and scattered around the state in the pre-fracking era to being numerous and concentrated in very specific locations.

Although the map itself does not state that these are the areas in which fracking activity is also concentrated, the section of the website labeled “What We Know” does affirm that the recent rise in seismic events can’t be attributed fully to natural causes and goes on to state that “The Oklahoma Geological Survey has determined that the majority of recent earthquakes in central and north-central Oklahoma are very likely triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells.”

However, the state of Oklahoma has followed Texas with similar legislation against fracking bans. A week after Abbott signed off on the Texas law, Oklahoma’s Governor Mary Fallin, signed a bill into law that would prevent municipal regulations of drilling activities, causing Norman, OK Mayor Cindy Rosenthal to voice concern that cities might not be able to regulate the disposal of wastewater into the drainage basins of municipal water supplies.

In Texas, natural gas is the largest source of electricity generation electricity companies and consumers have both benefited from cheap natural gas in the last several years.



The Beauty Of Energy Efficiency In Your Home

smart home energy efficiencyYou don’t have to only focus on the utilitarian parts of your house when trying to make it more energy efficient. You can focus on more than adequate insulation in the attic, energy-efficient window panes and washers that use very little water. There also are eco-friendly designs that are lovely to look at. When updating your home, consider the following ideas:

Let Landscaping Play Double Duty

There are many landscaping options that look great and help cut down on your home’s energy use. Better Homes and Gardens recommends planting deciduous trees on the west and south sides of your home because the leaf-filled trees shade your home during the hottest part of the year and then, in the winter when the leaves fall off, the branches let sunlight through to warm the house.

Hang Window Coverings

When it comes to being more energy efficient, a great place to start is with your window coverings, especially if your windows are not well insulated. Window treatments can complement any type of room design while also helping to maintain the light and temperature of your room. Depending on which direction your windows face, hang blackout curtains to keep harsh summer light from heating up your room or install solar shades to let in natural light without letting UV rays damage your furniture. Also look for window treatments made from eco-friendly materials. For example, The Shade Store offers shades and blinds made from bamboo and other low-impact materials.

Run Ceiling Fans

To avoid running the A/C non-stop during the summer, add ceiling fans to your most-used rooms. In addition to being budget friendly and easy to find, they use a low amount of energy — about the same as a 100-watt light bulb. Check out the Energy Star website prior to shopping to make sure you purchase an energy-efficient model.

To keep your home as cool as possible, set the fan to turn counterclockwise during the warm months and clockwise during the winter. Many people find that they can turn their thermostat up a few degrees during the summer, which can lead to saving up to 40 percent on energy bills, according to Redbeacon. In the winter, a spinning fan also can help push warm air back down into the room. This allows you to lower your heat and save around 10 percent.

Let in Natural Light With Skylights

Consider installing a few skylights in the rooms you use the most. With skylights you can take advantage of natural light and not turn on the lights inside your home during the day, which can lead to huge savings. The DIY Network offers great advice and tips for homeowners who want to install skylights themselves or you can hire a professional if you’re not up for a big project.

For rooms that get hot, a self-ventilating skylight allows you to vent the room as well as let natural light in. Venting also is great for cooler days and nights when you want to let accumulated heat out.

Simple Ways To Boost Energy Efficiency In Your Home Office

home-officeYou spend a lot of time in your home office, so why not make that time efficient for your home? With a few easy and simple steps you can make your office work for you and help save your hard-earned dough.

Wind Power

If you don’t have air conditioning in your home, make the cool air you do have count by replacing the overhead light with a flush ceiling fan. Adjust the fan to turn counter-clockwise in the summer, that way the cool air will stay lower while the fan pushes hot air up. Even if you do have air conditioning, a fan allows you to run your air less often. Cool the house, then turn off the air and let the fans do the work. Reverse the blade direction for winter to circulate warm air down.

Keep the Sun Out

Direct sunlight can heat up your office quickly, so take measures to minimize the direct light throughout the day. In fact, proper landscaping can help save you up to 40 percent on your energy bill, according to Outside, nearby trees and shrubs can provide shade to your windows. Notice where the sun is at its hottest and at what angle the sun shines in. Plant a new tree or shrub in the path between the sun and your window. Inside, install energy-efficient window coverings. Light-filtering cellular blinds are a good option because you can still keep your office cool without sacrificing natural light.

Get Your Green On

Houseplants improve perception of work as well as your attitude. Plants also help reduce molds and bacteria in the air, as well as other toxins. Boston Ferns and Bamboo have been shown to be among the most effective at reducing formaldehyde in the air. Many plants that are suitable for an indoor environment are also low-maintenance. Adding some greenery to your office space will not only help you feel good about your work but will also make you healthier.

Electronics Pitch In

Like many of us, you probably have your fair share of electronics in your home office. Make sure they are pulling their weight by plugging all of them into a power strip. Not only will you be protected in case of a power surge (think: summer thunderstorms) but you can simply flip the switch on the strip when you are done working for the day, turning everything off. Switch from a desktop computer to a laptop and you’ll save money too as laptops use less energy than a traditional desktop. Beware of “sleep” or “hibernate” modes when you shut down. In both modes, your computer is still drawing energy (same is true with light fixtures throughout your house), so better to shut it down completely.

Light Cheaply

Cheap doesn’t mean buy dated 1970s fixtures from the thrift store. Since you spend much of your day in your office, in a variety of lighting conditions, it’s important to optimize light for those conditions as well as the kind of work you do. All lights in your room should have LED, CFL or halogen bulbs, all of which can save you up to 80 percent on your energy bills versus typical incandescent bulbs. For detailed computer work, get a task light. And any lamps with shades should have opaque or light-colored shades Better than light bulbs is the sun. Light from the sun is free, so take advantage of it. Orient your desk to allow bright, but indirect light during your work day. Or look for a desk on wheels that you can turn as the light moves across your office throughout the day.

EV Sales Up In 2014, But Electric Cars Face Two Major Challenges

electric vehicleIt’s heartening news for the green crowd: Sales of electric vehicles were up another 23% in 2014, selling almost 120,000 units. The Nissan Leaf led the pack, followed by the Chevy Volt, the Tesla model S, the Toyota Prius PHV, and the Ford Fusion Energi. Plug-in electric vehicles ended the year with a 0.39% share of annual U.S. sales, which may sound piddling, but overall the trend is upward. However, before sales can significantly increase, EVs have to overcome a couple of serious obstacles.

Although sales in 2014 increased over the prior year, they did not continue the incredible trajectory represented by the 85% jump between 2012 and 2013 sales, which was spurred on in part by high gas prices. In 2014, gas prices began to plummet, and although sales of EVs haven’t declined, the lower prices could prove to be a major stumbling block. It has already affected hybrid models, whose market share dropped to 2.2% in December, the lowest since October of 2011. Electric models were at .5% in December–well in the throes of the oil-price slump–which was higher than their average annual share.

What makes cheap gas attractive isn’t necessarily inertia or an anti-green sentiment on the part of potential buyers: it’s the difference in the price of the cars themselves. Because batteries are extremely expensive, electric models, like hybrids, are priced significantly higher than their run-of-the-mill, gas-guzzling cousins.

Traditionally, there have been two main selling points for these cars: The environmentally friendly, helping-the-planet factor, which is a good feeling but rather intangible financially; and the money-saving angle: Spend a little more money on the green model, the thinking goes, and you can laugh all the way past the pump, where the poor slobs fill up their tanks yet again at usurious prices while you charge up your EV in the comfort of your own garage, for pennies. However, the extra several thousand dollars on the sticker becomes harder to justify when gas prices are so cheap that making back your investment might take a couple of decades, which is a bit past a typical car’s average lifespan. There are gas models out there now that get high mileage already, so it’s even harder to justify the extra expense.

The other major hurdle is infrastructure. While there are 125,000 gas stations in the United States, there are only 151 Tesla Superchargers. EV buyers are understandably bothered by “range anxiety”, the fear that they may get stuck somewhere if they run out of battery power. There are some very useful websites and apps like Plugshare, which maps the closest plug-in stations, including private chargers that can be shared by members, public chargers, and even superchargers. In some areas, this can still be a concern, though: According to, the city of Greensboro, North Carolina, for example, with a population of 277,000, has only four public charging stations. One is at the airport, and the other three are at car dealerships. How confident would you feel driving your Prius into the BMW or Nissan dealership for a charge?

Fortunately, strides are constantly being made to improve infrastructure and battery technology, as well. Tesla, one manufacturer who has enjoyed a consistent sales boom (its high-end models are purchased by people who are less concerned about price and can afford to go for a vehicle based solely on its environmental friendliness, or simply for the fact the Tesla makes snazzy, high-performance cars that are fun to drive), is building its Gigafactory plant in Nevada to improve battery efficiency and to reduce production costs. And engineers continue to pursue the ultracapacitor, a lightweight power storage and discharge unit that would alleviate the need for a cumbersome, expensive battery. The technology is out there, and it’s coming soon. And with no guarantee that gas prices will continue to fall, especially since oil rigs are liberally shutting down, reducing supply to get more balanced with demand, electric vehicles are still a good bet for the future.

3 Ways To Take Control Of Your Home’s Biggest Energy And Water Guzzlers

electricity conservationFifty-eight percent of the energy the U.S. generates is wasted, according to the Energy Collective. The U.S. Energy Administration reports that energy use by the residential sector has increased dramatically over the past 60 years. Where are you losing energy? Learn about three home energy guzzlers and how to take back control of your energy consumption.

Washers and Water Efficiency

The average American home washes 400 loads of laundry each year, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Many of these households are not using green, energy-efficient options that can save money and energy. The average washer uses 41 gallons of water per load and is the second-largest water user inside of the home. New high-efficiency models use up to 50 percent less water and energy than older washers per load. The EPA states that if all U.S. households were to install water-efficient washers, the U.S. would save upwards of 3 trillion gallons of water a year which could lead to savings of $18 billion dollars annually. Energy Star-labeled appliances are proven to reduce both water and energy use. And, washing machines that have cycle and load setting prove to be more water and energy-efficient than models without the adjustments. So, if your laundry room is a source of water waste, consider upgrading your outdated appliances.

Additionally, washing your clothes in cold water instead of warm or hot water saves energy, too. The Department of Energy recommends washing your clothes in cool water whenever you can. They also suggest switching hot water temperatures to warm or cold settings. Simply switching the setting from hot to warm can cut your energy use in half.

Your Smartphone Uses More Energy Than the Fridge

Believe it or not, your cellphone uses more energy than an Energy Star-rated refrigerator. That’s according to a recent report by the Digital Power Group. The 2013 report states that an average iPhone uses more energy for battery charging, wireless connectivity and data use than a medium-sized Energy Star fridge.

You can easily reduce your energy use at home by unplugging your chargers and other electronics when they are not in use. According to the Department of Energy, five to 10 percent of your home’s energy consumption comes from electronic devices that use standby power.

Enhance your Pools Efficiency

The Consortium for Energy Efficiency reports that standard pool pumps contribute to 70 percent of a pool’s energy use. In some cases, pool pumps will run unmonitored for 24 hours or more, when it only takes six hours of run time to effectively clean the pool, according to Green Building Advisor. The Department of Energy suggests reducing energy use by installing a solar pool heater. The system will include a solar collector, filter, pump and a flow control valve. The Department of Energy states that a solar pool heating system will cost between $3,000 and $4,000, but homeowners will quickly recoup their investments–although cost and payback will depend on your location. Homeowners can even earn a $1,400 tax credit by installing a solar heating system, according to NC Solar.

Solar heated pools require special products to keep them running efficiently. Online retailers like will ship your liquid solar heating products directly to your doorstep. Pro Series Liquid Cover, for example, helps to conserve hundreds of gallons of water by decreasing the evaporation of your pool water. The solution is 100 percent harmless and invisible. The liquid cover creates a barrier on the surface even when the pool is in use. The solution also helps to conserve the heat, so you’ll potentially save on energy costs related to heating your pool.

Georgetown To Be First City In Texas To Go To 100% Renewable Energy

green electricityGeorgetown, Texas plans to be the first city in the State to go completely green, with an aim toward getting 100% of its energy from renewable sources, namely solar and wind power. Through a 25-year deal with SunEdison, the city of Georgetown will purchase 150 MW of energy, beginning in 2016. This power will be provided by solar farms that SunEdison, the world’s largest renewable energy company, plan to construct in West Texas. Georgetown also contracted EDF Renewables to provide 144 MW of wind energy from the Spinning Spur 3 wind farm, under construction outside Amarillo. That deal, inked last year, will run through 2039.

Texas has an already-burgeoning wind power industry and has the potential to be a national, if not global, leader in solar power, as well, considering its size and solar exposure. Solar power hasn’t had an easy time getting a foothold without much support and financial incentives in a state more known for oil than practically any other commodity. But now that costs have decreased dramatically for solar power production, the winning factor that made the decision easy for Georgetown turned out to be not so much environmental ideals as price.

Yes, that’s right–the renewable option was also the most economically feasible one. There’s a bit of a “gold rush” on currently to develop the West Texas area for solar and wind power, and municipalities may start to reap the benefits soon, as costs drop lower and lower. Georgetown isn’t waiting, and it plans to join other such forward-thinking cities as Burlington, Vermont, already in the 100% club. Not all Texas cities have their own utilities, as Georgetown does. In most areas, consumers buy power directly from retailers, some of whom do offer power provided by 100% renewable energy. (See “Organic Power Promo” by Bounce Energy and this 100% Wind Energy plan by Green Mountain Energy)  As solar and wind power continue to become more affordable, correspondingly lower utility rates are likely to increase consumers’ preference for renewables, possibly to a tipping point that will make fossil fuels look like a last resort.

Another benefit of investment in renewables for Texas is that solar and wind power do not require the use of water, as the production of power from fossil fuels does. This is a legitimate concern for an area that can suffer from crippling drought. A switch to clean energy can provide a one-two punch in this area, though; not only does it reduce water consumption on an immediate basis, the reduction in greenhouse gases caused by large-scale adoption of renewables could possibly help mitigate the drought-producing effects of climate change, over the long term.

The combination of wind and solar are anticipated to be particularly successful because they are complementary to one another. The blazing afternoon Texas sun traditionally puts peak demand on the grid, but the use of solar power allows that very sun to provide the supply, as well. Wind, on the other hand, tends to occur at times that the sun doesn’t, so energy from wind power can supplement solar energy conveniently. And unlike fossil fuels, whose price and availability can’t be predicted over any kind of long term, the sun and wind are locally produced, so to speak, and as reliable as anything ever gets. The fact that these energy sources are also non-polluting and water-saving, as well as being cheap and reliable, is just icing on the cake.