AUSTIN (KXAN) — More than 4,100 Texans are working in the solar power industry, according to a new report by The Solar Foundation.
The national non-profit found this was a 28 percent increase in solar jobs in Texas since last year. Texas moved up to sixth place in national rankings for solar jobs, up from eighth in 2012. According to the study, growth in solar in the state is due to strong public policy, and public and private investment that pays dividends and creates jobs.
Texas’ largest municipal electric utilities – CPS Energy in San Antonio and Austin Energy in Austin – have enacted strong residential policies and incentives for rooftop solar power, spurring growth and leading to hundreds of rooftop solar installations in the two cities. CPS Energy also announced a contract with OCI Solar to build 400 MWs of utility-scale solar by 2017, powering 10 percent of homes in the San Antonio area. They will begin their first solar power project this year, producing the first utility-scale solar power for the utility.
In 2011, the Texas Legislature passed two statewide laws, including legislation to allow third-party leasing and financing of solar in Texas’s electric areas. These laws have helped spread solar development in areas like Houston and Dallas.
In 2014, the state will start two private solar projects. First Solar began its Barilla Solar Project in Pecos County near Fort Stockton, which sell its output into the competitive market. White Camp Solar in Kent County, near Lubbock, has announced it will begin operation of a 135 megawatt utility-scale solar plant by the summer. A variety of other utility-scale projects are being planned throughout Texas in 2014 through 2016.
Texas already leads the nation in wind power production, and with increasing solar production, the state could quickly become a clean energy leader.