Houston and Palo Alto chart aggressive course for green power

Houston and Palo Alto chart aggressive course for green power

Texas wind turbines image by the russians are here via Compfight cc.

With the cities of Houston and Palo Alto both announcing big purchases of renewable energy, it shows that prices are at the point where cities can get a significant portion of their energy from clean sources.

Houston's purchase makes it the largest municipal buyer of renewables in the United States.

It's buying enough wind energy to supply half its electricity for the next two years. The 140 megawatts (MW) from utility Reliant (owned by NRG) costs just $2 million.

"Historically, investing in clean energy has been a matter of cost, but wind prices right now are incredibly competitive with natural gas prices, so it's become easier than ever to invest in clean energy. And not only do you get clean air, but you are able to show leadership by making these investments. It shows the world that it's doable," says Luke Metzger, director of Environment Texas. Wind turbines near White Deer, Texas.

Purchasing renewable power is a significant way to help cities reduce emissions, says Laura Spanjian, Houston's sustainability director.

"We just reviewed data that shows that since 2007 and the last five years, the City of Houston reduced our emissions by 26 percent," she says. "So we are on the right track and we just want to continue."

Houston has some of the strongest energy efficiency standards in the country and one of the most extensive electric car charging networks.

Thanks to a $6.8 billion investment in new transmission lines, Texas will be able to deliver double the wind capacity to its cities. The state leads the nation in installed wind capacity, which supplies 9.2 percent of in-state generated electricity.

Main Texas wind turbines image by the russians are here via Compfight cc. Inline image by Jim Parkin via Shutterstock.

City of Palo Alto

The City of Palo Alto has approved a long-term solar energy purchase that will provide 18 percent of its electricity at the very low price of 6.9 cents per kilowatt hour.

Its municipal utility will buy 80 MW of solar from several solar plants under a 30-year power purchase agreement.

The price is competitive with natural gas and wind, and cheaper than they could get from a new nuclear or coal plant.

The city will buy the electricity from three solar plants, all sited on distressed agricultural land and all coming online in 2017.

When that happens, Palo Alto will get a full 50 percent of its energy from renewables. Photovoltaic panels at the City of Palo Alto Municipal Service Center.

In March, Palo Alto voted to use only carbon-neutral sources of electricity, effective immediately. It can do that because the city owns the utility -- more cities are considering owning their utilities for the same reason.

Its Carbon Neutral Plan is designed to be transparent, credible, sustainable, inspirational and repeatable by other communities. It's expected to cost less than $3 a year on the average person's electric bill.

Last year, the city approved a feed-in law for locally produced solar energy.

Austin, Texas also made a big wind purchase last week at extremely low prices that beat natural gas.

This article originally appeared at SustainableBusiness.com.

Main Texas wind turbines image by the russians are here via Compfight cc. Solar panels image by Richard Masoner / Cyclelicious via Compfight cc.