By Darren Meritz
El Paso Times
EL PASO -- El Paso could be poised to use the sun's energy as an alternative to fossil fuels because of its unique geographic location and abundantly sunny climate, experts and officials said this weekend at a summit designed to explore to possibilities of developing solar energy here.
Elected officials and scientists and other experts gathered before an estimated 150 people at the University of Texas at El Paso for the annual El Paso Solar Summit 2008 -- an effort to inform El Pasoans about renewable and solar energy as alternatives to fossil fuels.
"El Paso is in an area where we really could be using this technology, and we're not," said Julio Norman, a member of the El Paso Solar Energy Association and a conference attendee. "All of this technology is being used outside of El Paso, outside of Texas, with the exception of wind energy, mainly because we're an oil-rich state."
El Paso County, in conjunction with the Border Fair Housing and Economic Justice Center and UTEP, had a two-day symposium Friday and Saturday that focused on energy efficiency, weatherizing, recycling and the benefits of what's known as green culture.
The summit also considered the economic benefits solar power could bring to El Paso, known for its sunshine and hospitable weather.
"Our privileged location in the Southwest and the nowadays energy-saving needs are the predominant factors which led us to be progressive and look for energy conservation and efficiency alternatives," El Paso County Judge Anthony Cobos said.
Keynote speaker Arnold Leitner, chief executive officer and president of SkyFuel, a company that develops solar power systems, said solar power was emerging as a leader among alternative energy sources as the cost of relying on fossil fuels increased.
What's more, he said that development of a solar power plant could bring hundreds of millions of dollars to the community and thousands of jobs.
"There's opportunity, and it doesn't require large, billion-dollar (investment). You can get there incrementally growing," he said. El Paso has "sun and lots of terrain. There's certainly opportunity for El Paso."
Darren Meritz may be reached at dmeritz @ elpasotimes.com; 546-6127.
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