AUSTIN – With 37 megawatts (MW) of solar energy installed, El Paso ranks 18th in the U.S. for total solar capacity, according to Environment Texas Research and Policy Center’s new report Shining Cities 2018: How Smart Local Policies Are Expanding Solar Power in America. El Paso ranked just behind Austin and ahead of Riverside, California. However, Environment Texas warned that El Paso’s progress could be hampered by new fees adopted by El Paso Electric which may discourage customers from going solar.
“El Paso is leading the way to a future powered by clean, renewable energy,” said Luke Metzger, Executive Director of Environment Texas Research and Policy Center. “By tapping into more of our vast solar energy potential, we can benefit from cleaner air and fight climate change.”
In 2017, El Paso was awarded the SolSmart Gold designation by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) (formerly known as the SunShot Initiative), which helps states lower barriers to installing solar energy systems. El Paso received the award for creating an online checklist to guide residents through the process of switching to solar energy; for streamlining its permitting process to the point that permit applications for small solar PV systems are now turned around in just 24 hours; and for consolidating the number of inspections required for new solar installations. At the end of 2017, 37 MW of solar PV capacity were tied to El Paso Electric’s grid, which serves the city. While smaller cities were not included in the formal ranking in the report, El Paso would have ranked 18th in the nation. And with 54 watts per person, El Paso would rank a “Solar Star” on Environment Texas’ list.
"Distributed generation, or rooftop solar as it is more commonly known, lowers a homeowner's utility bill and provides a measure of energy independence, as well as supporting the electric grid by lowering demand,” said state Senator José Rodríguez. Rooftop solar also generates well-paying jobs. El Paso, the Sun City, should be leading the way on both fronts, and doing everything we can to support continued growth of rooftop solar."
Solar energy helps El Paso in many ways, including by combating global warming, reducing air pollution, strengthening the electric grid, and stabilizing energy costs for residents. According to a new census of solar jobs by the Solar Foundation, 162 people work in the solar industry in El Paso County.
El Paso has the potential to go much further on solar. According to Google’s Project Sunroof, El Paso has 149,000 total rooftops suitable for solar which together could generate 2,400 MW of energy.
“We are in a moment when progress on renewable energy will come from cities across the country,” said Metzger. “El Paso has shown the difference that local leaders can make by stepping up and plugging their communities into the clean and virtually limitless power of the sun.”
Shining Cities is the fifth annual report from Environment Texas Research & Policy Center. Each year, the survey ranks nearly 70 of the nation’s major cities by megawatts of solar energy. The report includes recommendations for cities to expand their solar use, including setting ambitious goals for solar energy adoption, adopting policies to promote or require “solar ready” or zero net energy homes, and installing solar on municipal buildings and schools.