Though solar power is really beginning to take off in Texas, it can still be challenging for some residential homeowners and renters to obtain.  Some locations are not permitted to install solar panels, renters rarely have any say in the matter, many families and individuals cannot afford the up-front costs of going solar, and other sites are just not fit to harvest energy (e.g. there is a lot of tree shade on the property).  Community solar power is growing just in time to save the day.  In areas all across Texas, solar companies are investing in off-site locations to build solar farms for residents restricted from solar energy. 

Community solar is a little different from solar farms providing energy to electricity companies.  In the latter, cities and counties receive solar energy just by paying their normal energy bill and may not ever even know that part of their power is solar.  Community solar takes more conscious effort from residents.  Participants of community solar must buy into the group individually to receive solar energy by seeking it out themselves and paying for energy by contributing to a community fund for the community’s personal solar.  This could be compared to a community urban garden where individuals put into the garden to get something out of it (a classic reap what you sow concept).

The Clean Energy Collective is building in Adkins outside of San Antonio and Orange Grove near Corpus Christi.  Both sites are expected to finish construction in July and will provide about 1 MW of energy to their respective locations.  Marlin Solar, a brand new company about to take off near Waco, is implementing a community solar farm for the citizens of Marlin.  This farm will cover 55 acres and is in the stages of planning.  Already online in the Houston area is the Harvest Moon Farm by Harvest Moon Renewable Energy, and they are planning for more

Harvest Moon is building community solar farms in the Houston area for Houstonians looking to play an active role in transitioning away from big-utility fossil fuels toward a more local and sustainable energy infrastructure.  For less than 12 cents per kWh (including CenterPoint delivery charges), customers get solar energy produced from Harvest Moon’s inaugural solar farm in Sealy, TX via a comprehensive, transparent, and 100% renewable electricity plan with no term obligations or cancellation fees.  Participation directly supports additional clean energy projects in the region that contribute to our local economy and community.  

El Paso Electric (EPE) is also trying to get in on community solar.  Currently, the company is waiting on the Public Utility Commission of Texas for approval of a 3 MW community solar farm at the Montana Power Station in El Paso.  The issue should come up for vote in July and if approved, EPE will start construction immediately to come online as soon as possible.

It is fantastic that solar is growing so vastly in Texas in such diverse forms.  Community solar is a great pathway for communities to build relationships and better manage themselves on smaller scales.  It also is a great resource for providing clean renewable energy to families and individuals that may not otherwise have the chance to utilize it.  Community solar is the future happening now, and it will be very exciting to continue to watch it grow.  Look into solar resources in your own community and commit to Go Solar!

Post by Kathleen McCully, a student at UC Berkeley and an intern with Environment Texas' Solar for All campaign.