Is Texas the next solar state?
Amid the holiday week hullabaloo, you might have missed the news that SunPower, the Silicon Valley solar-panel manufacturer, plans to make a major expansion into Texas.
The Lone Star State is, of course, a wind energy giant. But Texas has remained something of a laggard when it comes to solar power. Despite the state’s intense sunshine and sky-high air-conditioning bills, it hasn’t offered the type of incentives that have made California a photovoltaic powerhouse.
But that could be changing. SunPower, one of the nation’s biggest solar-panel manufacturers and developers, appears to see a big future market in Texas, which awarded the company a $2.5 million incentive to expand its operations there. SunPower said on Tuesday that it will add 450 jobs in Austin over the next four years.
“Texas has great potential to become a significant solar market,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner said in a statement. “If policies creating a stable solar market across Texas are enacted, this commitment by SunPower could be the start of significantly more investment and job creation in the state by the rapidly growing solar industry.”
SunPower said Austin will become one of the company’s top three office locations in the U.S.
The solar industry clearly wants to encourage Texas to step up to the plate. Next year the industry’s big trade show, Solar Power International, will take place in Dallas, the first time in years it will be held outside of California.
Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry trade group, told me at a dinner at this year’s confab in Los Angeles that the decision to move the show to Texas was made in large part to demonstrate to state legislators that solar is a big industry they should embrace.