Texas group to give solar a push

Leading industry players have formed the Texas Solar Power Association (TSPA) to advance sector development in a state that has barely touched its enormous solar resource, the most of any of the 48 in the continental US.

TSPA is comprised of companies operating in Texas that focus on retail and wholesale electric market opportunities.  They include manufacturers, large-scale power plant developers, residential and commercial rooftop integrators, and other companies across the full solar PV supply chain.

Founding TSPA board members are industry heavyweights E.ON Climate and Renewables North America, First Solar, Recurrent Energy and SunPower.

"Developing our state's abundant solar resource will diversify our electricity supply base, increase economic development, reduce water use, and provide long-term price stability for Texas. It just makes sense," says TSPA executive director Charlie Hemmeline.

On 1 January, Texas had 213MW of installed solar generation capacity, 13 among US states. Installations totaled 75MW in 2013, ranking it eighth nationally, according to the Solar Energy industries Association (SEIA).

There are about 290 companies in the Texas solar value chain, employing around 4,100 persons, SEIA says.

Unlike with wind, Texas does not have a state mandate for solar, and offers few incentives to encourage installations by home or small business owners.

Net metering has encountered resistance from conservative interest groups and some electric utilities who contend that the practice is unfair to those in the middle and lower classes without rooftop solar. Selling excess power back to the utility at the full retail rate means that those with installed solar do not pay their full share of electric grid operating costs, critics charge.

The state’s vast, sun-drenched territory in West Texas are ideal for solar development, although more transmission infrastructure will be needed to bring large amounts of power to major load centers.

Solar will also need to compete on price in Texas’ competitive power market with wind and natural gas, the main drives of new generating capacity in recent years.