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Solar shifts suggest Lege action near 

Greg Harman

It's a good time to be talking green jobs â?? specifically the solar variety â?? in San Antonio.

First, super-bad CPS Energy adopts a resolution in favor of transitioning to a decentralized power model, a critical first step toward a future where our electricity is made on the rooftops of homes across the city (instead of polluting power plants).

Next, Mayor Hardberger unleashes his vision for “Mission Verde,” which starts by turning the city's power grid into a two-way street ripe for homemade power, and ends with “green” jobs training programs and hyper-efficient building codes.

Then solar goes apeshit in Austin.

Already this session, lawmakers have filed 15 bills seeking to expand solar energy use in the state, according to Texas Legislature Online. (Solar advocates count “at least” 18 bills.)

Bills include:

At a Pearl Brewery press conference Monday, San Antonio's favorite solar celebrant Bill Sinkin (left) said in perfect 19th-century speak that solar power is already a full-grown child in need of proper rearing â?? that state residents “need to insist lawmakers stay behind building the best, the strongest child of the Sun in the state of Texas.”

Locals were on hand to dress up the session, but this was a statewide press fandango intended to trumpet the release of a new report from yet another green advocacy amalgam, one part Public Citizen, one part Environment Texas, and a third part Vote Solar.

The Public Citizen report Texas Solar Roundup (PDF) suggests that by adopting a solar-based renewable portfolio standard of 4,000 megawatt capacity within 10 years, ramping up rebate programs, and ensuring fair buy-back prices for homemade power, the state is ready to reel in “22,000 manufacturing and installation jobs, stabilize energy prices, and avoid 29 million tons of climate change inducing pollution.”

“The solar rebate program and other incentives recommended in this report would do much to make solar installations affordable for San Antonio homeowners and businesses,"said Anita Ledbetter, executive director of the Metropolitan Partnership for Energy and Build San Antonio Green, in a prepared release.

Legislation being proposed in Austin could even lead to solar at a scale where the price would be cheaper than traditional types of distributed generation,”

Bexar County Commish Tommy Adkisson had a few words, as well...

So has Texas finally reached a critical mass for solar?

Pearl's 200-kilowatt solar array, projected to be the largest in the state, is nearing completion. CPS Energy is committed to building a West Texas solar farm to start generating “up to” 100 megawatts as soon as next year. Solar breakthroughs in thin-film that could lead to the rapid deployment of solar power to residential rooftops across the city keep on coming.

With climate projections suggesting that even if world governments are able to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 the planet may still reverberate cataclysm, we'll be needing every pollution-free kilowatt we can lay our hands on.

There is a petition circulating intending to put pressure on state leaders to give solar a strong shot in the arm, but nothing beats a phone call to your reps local office. ;)

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