The state leads the nation in wind power, and now a group advocating for solar energy is pushing for Texas to tap into its sunshine.
California-based Vote Solar Initiative took out classified ads in several Texas newspapers this week, claiming solar energy could create 45,000 to 90,000 jobs across the state for electricians and engineers and in sales.
The ads, which the group said ran in The Midland Reporter-Telegram, the Abilene Reporter News, The Dallas Morning News and the Austin American-Statesman, urge readers to contact legislators to "ask for bold solar policies."
"You put the right policies in place, you get desirable results," said Adam Browning, executive director of the initiative. "Texas is an energy state. They know how to do energy."
Long known for its oil and natural gas production, Texas also has the most megawatts generated by wind in the U.S. As of Sept. 30, Texas had 6,297 megawatts installed, more than twice the 2,493 megawatts installed in California, the nation's No. 2 state.
Dozens of bills pending
A bipartisan group of legislators has filed dozens of bills aimed at the boosting the state's solar industry. They include bills that would offer rebates to consumers who install solar power and which address homeowner association rules and taxing issues.
Texas Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, authored SB600 which calls for 3,000 megawatts of solar energy to be online in Texas by 2020.
In an e-mail Tuesday, she said that for every megawatt of solar energy added, at least four jobs will be created.
"Making Texas a leader in solar energy is important not only for our environment, but also for our economy," she said. "Given the current state of our economy, we need to harness the power of the Texas sun and use it to power our economy as well."
The solar energy that could be harvested from just one acre of West Texas land equals 800 barrels of oil a year, according to the State Energy Conservation Office.
More bills are being filed daily, said Annie Carmichael, a Vote Solar Initiative spokeswoman.
"This is the solar session," she said.
The nonprofit, grassroots group says the 90,000 jobs would be created if most of the circuitry, panels and other necessary components were manufactured in Texas.
The average impact of a 10-year solar rebate program would be an extra $1 a month addition to residential customers' bills, according to the initiative. Retail electric providers offer rebates to consumers who install solar at homes or businesses but "everybody pays because everyone benefits," Carmichael said.
Over the 10 years, the solar energy produced would mitigate more than 48 million tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of permanently removing 760,794 cars.
Austin utility has plans
One municipal electric utility in Austin is already stepping into solar power. Austin Energy will build a 30-megawatt solar plant that's scheduled for completion in 2010. It is expected to be one of the largest such plant in the U.S. and the sixth largest in the world.
The plant will remove 30,000 tons of carbon dioxide from the air per year and provide enough electricity to power 5,000 homes.
Steve Taylor, a spokesman for Austin-based Applied Materials, the world's largest maker of microchips for solar panels and the panels themselves, said the three-fourths of the jobs will be spread across Texas.
"You're creating little mom-and-pop stores all over Texas," he said. "It's not just where you make the panel."