Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Utility plans to use pact to draw jobs, education to city.
By Colin McDonald
San Antonio Express-News
CPS Energy's plan to add another 50 megawatts of solar power and leverage it for economic development was lauded Tuesday as CEO Doyle Beneby described the utility and San Antonio as poised to be national leaders in solar.
"This is doing exactly what we had hoped Doyle would do," said Richard Perez, president and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce. "We have been looking at it (CPS) as an economic engine because it provides cheap energy; now it's something entirely different. ... I think it's a new day for CPS Energy."
Speaking to the San Antonio Clean Technology Forum, Beneby and Cris Eugster, CPS' chief sustainability officer, outlined how CPS will invite companies worldwide to provide the 50 megawatts of solar energy.
To win the contract with CPS, a company would have to agree to establish some operations — manufacturing or assembly along with education — in San Antonio.
Beneby believes that once some work is based here, the city could readily attract other companies and grow a new industry.
"We are going to need the entire community to help us pull off what we think is an exciting future," Beneby said to the sold-out hall at the Witte Museum.
CPS is fortunate that its traditional low-cost power gives it the leeway to pursue renewables, he said.
CPS has committed to increase its renewable energy capacity to 1,500 megawatts by 2020, about 20 percent of its total energy demand.
Already the biggest buyer of wind power among municipal utilities, CPS gets all the power from the 14-megawatt Blue Wing solar farm on the South Side and is nailing down a contract for 30 more megawatts from SunEdison, which will build three solar farms in the area.
Solar panels will help power the downtown campus of the University of Texas San Antonio, which was just awarded $900,000 by the State Energy Conservation Office.
Les Shephard, director of UTSA's Institute for Conventional, Alternative and Renewable Energy, said San Antonio's challenge is to be an accelerator, not just an innovator, in the global transition from fossil fuels.
"We want to develop downtown UTSA into a showpiece of renewable energy," Shephard said.
UTSA and other universities in the city can become test beds for the distribution of renewable energy and will help San Antonio gain national attention as researchers look for place to try new technologies.
CPS has committed up to $50 million over 10 years to the institute.
"CPS has a tremendous opportunity to bring economic investment and research and development jobs because it's the largest municipally owned utility," Mayor Julián Castro said in opening remarks to the forum.
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