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Austin Energy announces proposal that would supply city with up to 150 MW of utility-scale solar power


From the March 19, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published March 19, 2014

By Jeannine Anderson
Editor
Austin Energy said Monday it is positioned to exceed its overall 200 MW solar goal with a new power purchase agreement (PPA) for up to 150 megawatts of solar energy to be built in West Texas by Sun Edison. 

"With this solar addition, Austin Energy will be using more renewable energy than almost any other utility in the country as a percent of the energy distributed per customer," the Texas utility said.

The city's Electric Utility Commission approved the proposed agreement Monday night and the Austin City Council is scheduled to take it up on March 20 and 27. 

The 25-year contract is for the output of two solar farms and will cost $21 million annually for 25 years, for a total estimated amount of $525 million, the utility said. Long-term fixed pricing will be in the range of $45 to $55 per MWh -- among the lowest solar prices available in the solar industry today, Austin Energy said. 

"Solar prices have dropped dramatically in recent months, making this a good time to expand our solar reach," said Austin Energy General Manager Larry Weis. "Austin Energy is proud to lead Texas in solar energy and we are well on our way to achieving our solar goals ahead of schedule." 

The two new projects, projected to come online in 2016, would include more than 500,000 solar panels. 

With the 30-MW Webberville Solar Project, Austin Energy currently supplies about 25 percent of the utility-scale solar energy (123 MW) available in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas region, the municipal utility said. Commercial, residential, municipal building and school solar installations make up 21 MW of rooftop solar capacity in Austin.

Austin Energy’s Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2020 calls for 200 MW of solar by 2020, 100 MW of which will come from solar generated in the Austin Energy service area and at least 50 MW of which will be located at customer homes and businesses. 

The 200-MW solar goal is the second goal from the Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2020 that the utility expects to achieve before 2020. Last month, Austin Energy announced a new wind energy contract that positions the city-owned utility to achieve its 35 percent renewable energy resources goal four years ahead of schedule, in 2016. (See the March 4 Public Power Daily.) Austin Energy also has issued a request for proposals to contract with a solar company to develop a local community solar project for residential customers who are unable to install solar systems at their homes.
 

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