May 24—More of the electricity powering San Antonio homes and businesses will come from solar panels under a deal CPS Energy signed Tuesday to purchase power produced by a solar farm in Southeast Texas.
The city-owned utility will buy electricity from a 300-megawatt solar plant Consolidated Edison Development is building in Goliad County. It's to be completed in 2024 or 2025.
"The way we generate power determines our ability to ensure a sustainable environment," said Mayor Ron Nirenberg, one of CPS' five trustees. "San Antonio is making great advances toward carbon neutrality and CPS Energy's continued leadership in renewable energy is making our progress possible."
The 25-year agreement moves CPS one-third of the way to its goal of adding 900 megawatts of solar capacity.
The utility began soliciting bids from solar developers in early 2020 through its FlexPower Bundle initiative, which is to add the solar generation, 50 megawatts of battery storage and 500 megawatts of natural-gas fired capacity.
The efforts are in part to replace CPS' aging Braunig and O.W. Sommers gas-fired plants, which were built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It wants to shutter them by 2026. Beyond that, CPS is likely to retire one of its two coal-fired power plants before 2028 and convert the second to run on cleaner-burning natural gas.
To get the 500 megawatts called for, CPS will probably sign an agreement to purchase power from a natural gas power plant in Texas for a five year period, until zero-carbon generation technologies such as geothermal are ready to be deployed.
CPS has increased its reliance on solar power in the past decade to reduce emissions and because solar panels produce the most power when San Antonians need it — when they're cranking up air conditioning on hot, sunny days.
CPS currently has total solar capacity of 552 megawatts.
A day earlier, CPS trustees approved $350 million in funding to extend the utility's energy efficiency and conservation initiative, which provides credits to homeowners who install solar systems. The revamped version of the program is expected to make it easier for low-income ratepayers to access less expensive solar programs.
The swift rise in natural gas prices over the past year also makes solar power — which isn't subject to volatile fuel prices — more attractive, Garza said. An analysis published last fall by the financial firm Lazard showed energy from solar farms costs about the same as electricity from a modern gas plant.
CPS customers paid $136 on average for their electric and gas bill in April, up 20 percent from a year earlier. Most of the increase was driven by higher market prices for natural gas, which CPS provides to homes and uses as a fuel at some of its power plants.
"The price we're getting for solar is super, super competitive when it comes to solar versus natural gas. This is the best price I've seen in the market for solar," Garza said of Tuesday's deal. "It helps ensure our bills remain affordable."
CPS has worked with Consolidated Edison on renewable energy projects since 2016, CEO Mark Noyes said. The company will hire eight workers to operate the solar farm.
(c)2022 the San Antonio Express-News
Visit the San Antonio Express-News at www.mysanantonio.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.