A city in Texas – home to the “Gusher Age” of American oil – is aiming to become 100 per cent renewable within two years, after finalising a deal with SunEdison to supply it with solar power for 25 years.
Georgetown – population 54,000 – will take the output from the 150MW solar plant and another 144MW from a new wind farm to source its needs from renewables. The local utility saying it has turned to wind and solar because it is cheaper and more reliable, and requires a lot less water.
The deal with SunEdison will provide electricity at a lower overall cost than the City of Georgetown’s previous wholesale power contracts – and will supply more than 9,500 gigawatt-hours of renewable energy to Georgetown rate payers through 2041, enough to power more than 24,000 homes a year for 25 years.
And it follows the utility’s signing of a wind power agreement in 2014 – a 20-year PPA with EDF for 144MW from the 194MW Spinning Spur 3 wind project, which is currently under construction 50 miles west of Amarillo, and will begin delivery of power in 2016.
So in basic terms, what we have here is a major city-owned utility in America’s Number One Oil State that has chosen to supply its customers with renewable energy, because it’s cheaper and more reliable. At least, that’s pretty much how Georetown’s general manager of utilities, Jim Briggs, put it.
“Georgetown Utility Services isn’t required to buy solar or other renewables – we did so because it will save on electricity costs and decrease our water usage. This power purchase agreement makes Georgetown Utility Systems one of the largest municipal utilities in the nation to be 100 per cent renewable powered. It also provides a hedge against future fuel and regulatory risks.”
And as the Georgetown News reported on Wednesday, the combination of solar and wind power will allow the City to provide energy from complementary renewable sources, so as to meet demand patterns.
“The solar power produced in West Texas will provide a daily afternoon supply peak that matches the daily energy demand peak in Georgetown, especially during the hot summer months,” it said.
“Wind power production in West Texas tends to be highest in the off-peak, evening or early-morning hours. This means that wind power can most often fill power demand when the sun isn’t shining.”
For SunEdison, the hope is that the Georgetown example will act as a source of inspiration for other US cities that hope to become 100 per cent renewables.
The PPA is one of the largest solar agreements in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) jurisdiction, and represents the largest utility scale solar agreement that the global renewable energy giant has signed in Texas to date.
On completion of the solar plants, SunEdison expects to offer the project for investment to TerraForm Power, a Nasdaq-listed global owner and operator of clean energy power plants. The project is also expected to create close to 800 jobs in Texas during construction.