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September 22, 2015 | Having Conquered Fossil Fuels and Wind, Texas Turns its Sights to Solar Energy

Texas has long been a leader in oil and gas energy, ever since the first oil well at Spindletop produced a gusher and ushered in the modern oil industry. More recently, Texas has become a leader in wind energy, with wind farms in the Panhandle and West Texas making the Lone Star State the biggest wind producer in the country.

Now, according to a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, Texas is poised to become a leader in a third form of energy production: solar.

Pecos County, which lies between San Antonio and El Paso, at the edge of the Permian Basin oil formation, is becoming the recipient of $1 billion of solar energy investments. A number of solar energy companies are already making preliminary moves to build huge solar energy farms there. By 2029, Texas’ solar capacity is expected to rise from its current 193 megawatt output to between 10,000 and 12,500 megawatts, roughly equal to the entire solar capacity of the United States.

With these recent investments and increased interest in solar energy, the boom in Texas is expected to take off, even despite the fact that, unlike states such as California or Colorado, Texas does not offer tax incentives for solar energy projects. Fortunately, federal and local incentives are still available. However, there are a number of other factors contributing to the development of solar energy in Texas.

Firstly, the cost of photovoltaic solar cells has been coming down, while their efficiency has been steadily rising. This development is fueling the growth in solar energy worldwide. This makes constructing solar energy systems more cost-effective than ever. As a result, electricity from solar power is quickly becoming competitive with power from other sources, particularly coal and natural gas.

Additionally, land in West Texas is flat, cheap and drenched with sunlight. The area is a prime location for the development of large-scale solar energy farms that require large, flat, sunny places to be most effective.

Most importantly, high-capacity transmission lines that can move electricity from remote solar energy farms to urban customers are already in place. Texas spent $6.9 billion to build the lines to connect its big cities to the wind energy farms that dot the landscape of the state. The new solar energy farms will be able to use those same lines to fuel power-hungry customers in Dallas, San Antonio, and other cities. Solar and wind energy also complement one another in that at mid-day, when the wind tends to be lulled by the heat, solar energy is at its peak for generating electricity.

Solar energy has long had a reputation for being an expensive option beloved by environmentalists; however, with technological developments and improved financing options, solar is quickly becoming a viable option for businesses, cities and private individuals. Even in an era when the price of oil and gas is at a long-time low, solar is rapidly becoming mainstream. Texas entrepreneurs, not known for their propensity for tree hugging, are increasingly embracing solar as part of the mix of sources of energy.

If there is anything that Texans know, it’s that the market for oil and gas runs in cycles. Today’s boom can become tomorrow’s bust and vice versa. But no matter what the trends in oil and gas do, the sun will always shine. Sunlight is a sustainable, unlimited resource that is unaffected by market fluctuations or foreign crises. Once the investment is made in solar power plants, electricity will continue to flow for years to come. Business savvy Texans are now taking advantage of this fact and maintaining state's dominance in energy production, now from an even cleaner source.