Houston Commissions State's Largest Solar Project

The City of Houston plans to partner with NRG Texas to build the state's largest solar farm. The 40-million dollar project will go online next year and provide energy exclusively for city buildings. Laurie Johnson has more.

Despite the blustery fall weather this week, Houston is an ideal place for solar power.

That's why the City put out a call for bids on a solar farm.

City of Houston General Services Director Issa Dadoush says NRG Texas won the bid to build the state's largest solar project.

"What makes this project very, very unique, if you look at the state of Texas and look at all the solar projects that we have and you add them all up together cumulatively, they come out to about six megawatts. This project by itself is 10 megawatts, so this will almost double the capacity of what we have right now in the state of Texas."

NRG Texas will pay the $40 million cost of building and operating the solar farm.

The 10 megawatt facility in northwest Houston will house dozens of solar panels that soak up the sun's rays.

Kevin Howell, the company's president, says the city will then enter into a 25-year agreement to purchase 100 percent of the energy generated from those panels.

"We're going to sell that power back to the city, but we're going to do it as a blended product so that they get their power regardless if the sun is shining or not. So the way to think about that is when the sun is shining they'll be taking all of the power off the solar array. If for some reason it's a cloudy or rainy day, then we're going to supplement that commitment to them on our traditional generation. That has the benefit of giving the city a steady supply of power and also has blended the price down to make it more economic for them."

Dadoush says a third of the city's power already comes from wind energy. The solar farm will represent an additional 1.5 percent of the city's energy consumption.

"And I hope we get to a point where 50 percent of our load is coming from renewable power. We need to think big. We need to think of the future. We can't think of what's happening today, we have to set up plans that will be good for the environment, at the same time that does make economic sense."

The deal with NRG has to pass muster in the city's fiscal affairs committee next week. After that, councilmembers have to approve the agreement.

If all goes as planned, the solar farm will go online by July of next year.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.
 

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...