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Solar project draws praise at Generation Plan hearing

Tuesday, March 18, 2014 by Bill McCann

Solar energy advocates were still buzzing Monday at the recent news that Austin Energy has negotiated a 25-year contract to buy up to 150 megawatts of solar-generated electricity at a price that is among the lowest ever.


A number of persons speaking at a joint meeting of the Electric Utility and Resource Management commissions on the utility’s updated Resource, Generation and Climate Protection Plan to 2020, cited the new project as a reason why the city should invest in even more solar energy soon. The contract, if approved by the Austin City Council, would put the city over the top in meeting its goal of getting 200 megawatts of its power generation from solar energy by 2020, according to utility officials. 


The agreement calls for Austin Energy to purchase the solar energy from SunEdison, which is planning to build two solar farms at undisclosed sites in West Texas. The projects are scheduled to come on line in 2016. The long-term fixed price of the solar energy would be 4.5 cents to 5.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which Austin Energy officials called “very favorable.”  


In fact, at that price the solar energy would be cheaper than either coal or natural gas. The City Council is scheduled to consider the new solar contract at its next two regular meetings. The EUC recommended the project in a vote of 5-0, with two abstentions.

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