Last week, The New York Times published an article that rhetorically posed this question: If the 11 coal-fired power plants proposed by TXU are kaput, and the state continues to experience record growth, where is the new energy going to come from?

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has one answer: energy efficiency.

We’ve got another: Solar. And we have a plan to make it happen. My colleague JP Ross is the primary drafter of legislation for a $500 million solar program, enough to jumpstart the state’s solar industry and turn the fossil fuel state on to the renewable energy path. It’s been introduced as HB 2226 by Representative Coleman, and Sen. Rodney Ellis filed a companion bill in the Senate.

You might think that hippie-dippy solar would be a hard sell in the heart of oil country. You’d be wrong. Vote Solar helped develop a poll (PDF), and the results are astounding. When asked the big question — Do you think the Texas Legislature should encourage investment in solar power in Texas? — a mind-boggling 84 percent of Texans said yes. Even more encouraging, 81 percent would spend up to a dollar a month to help make that happen.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.

That, friends, is enough to build a world-class solar market in the heart of oil country. When we say people want solar, this is what we mean.

To give you and idea of how far we’ve come, we did a similar poll in California in 2005. At the time, 77 percent of Californians supported increasing investment in solar power, and 56 percent would pay up to 50 cents a month. We thought those numbers were good at the time, but the Texas poll is a significant shift. It could be that Texas is more solar-friendly than California. More plausibly, though, the whole country has shifted since 2005.

Grist thanks its sponsors. Become one.