To Texas city, 100 percent renewables just made financial sense

One city in Texas has opted to go with wind and solar power exclusively – not primarily for the environmental benefits, but for the cost savings.

The city of Georgetown contracted with EDF Renewable Energy for 144 MW of power from the Spinning Spur 3 wind farm currently under construction west of Amarillo. The facility will provide “competitively priced renewable energy to Georgetown customers through 2035” under a 20-year power purchase agreement, as the city states. More recently, the city entered a power purchase agreement with SunEdison to purchase 150 MW of solar power starting in 2016.

According to the city, the new renewable power contracts provide electricity at a lower overall cost than its previous wholesale power contracts.

The news is just the latest example of how Texas, the No. 1 state for wind energy capacity, is winning big after putting in place sound policies that allow wind energy to contribute to the state’s grid and economy. One policy that recently has reaped big economic rewards for the state is the Competitive Renewable Energy Zone (CREZ) program. CREZ, which enabled the build-out of transmission that connects some of the state’s richest wind resources with load centers, has helped spur the latest Texas wind energy boom.

In 2014, Texas led the U.S. in electricity generated from wind energy—over 39 million megawatts-hours, enough to power more than 3.6 million homes. And Texas currently has more wind power under construction than is installed in any other state.

Located in the No. 1 wind energy state, the city of Georgetown noticed the competitive cost of wind and its ability to serve as a hedge against fossil-fuel prices. “The long-term agreements also allow Georgetown to provide competitive electric rates and hedge against price volatility for energy produced by fossil-fuels,” spokesperson Keith Hutchinson wrote when the city made the 100 percent renewables announcement.

Hutchinson also noted wind energy’s water-saving attributes. “The use of solar and wind-produced energy also means that unlike natural gas, nuclear, or coal-fired power plants, energy production for Georgetown will not require water,” he wrote. As Texas has recently suffered from a drought, energy technologies that use no water for generation are particularly important for the state.

Hutchinson noted that by embracing renewables, it can attract businesses interested in powering their operations with clean, affordable, stably priced energy. Companies including Google, Walmart, Ikea, and Mars are all tapping Texas wind energy.

“The City’s renewable power sources also may lead to an economic development benefit. Many companies, especially those in the high-tech sector, have invested in green sources of power for their office and manufacturing facilities.  Georgetown’s 100 percent renewable power supply can help companies to achieve sustainability goals at a competitive price.”