Environmentalists praise San Antonio's CPS Energy for solar deal but urge it to cut fossil fuel use

CPS officials this week said they'll buy 180 megawatts of solar energy from West Texas' Tierra Bonita solar farm,  a facility expected to be completed in 2024.

click to enlarge The 40 MW Alamo is one of several solar farms in the San Antonio area already providing power to CPS Energy. - OCI Solar
OCI Solar
The 40 MW Alamo is one of several solar farms in the San Antonio area already providing power to CPS Energy.
Environmentalists met a deal that will give CPS Energy 180 megawatts of new solar energy capability with cautious optimism, saying the move is a positive step but adding that the city-owned utility should further transition from fossil fuels.

CPS officials this week said they'll buy 180 megawatts of solar energy from West Texas' Tierra Bonita solar farm,  a facility expected to be completed in 2024. The power company currently has a total of 550 megawatts of solar capacity with 480 megawatts more in the works, according to the Express-News.

In an emailed statement, the Sierra Club said the new solar investment represents a "shining reminder" of renewables' place in San Antonio's future. However, the group urged CPS to shutter its coal-fired JK Spruce power plant, one of the region's largest single-point pollution sources.

“We hope next to see the utility move away from coal and gas-fired power generation, especially by closing the Spruce coal plant," said Emma Pabtst, a representative for Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign. "Building a grid of the future is no easy task, but with solar, wind and battery storage, as well as efforts to reduce demand through energy efficiency programs and better buildings, we have all of the tools that we need."

In CPS's solar announcement, officials said the company's plan to phase in cleaner power sources — dubbed the FlexPower Bundle plan — includes up to 900 megawatts of solar, up to 50 megawatts of energy storage and up to 500 megawatts of capacity usable at times when the sun and wind are not generating sufficient power.

In a statement, watchdog group Public Citizen voiced concern that the utility's 500 megawatts of so-called "firming capacity" could include natural gas-powered sources. While cleaner than coal, natural gas still a pollutant that contributes to climate change.

“As CPS Energy decides what power sources to build for San Antonio next, we encourage them to stick to clean energy and stay away from gas,” said DeeDee Belmares, a climate justice organizer with Public Citizen's Texas office. “Gas prices are unstable, and San Antonians are already struggling to pay higher electric bills. If CPS Energy is serious about reducing costs and following through on the city’s Climate Action Plan, they’ll steer clear of gas.”

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