About 45 minutes north of Austin on I-35 sits the beautiful, historic Texas hamlet of Georgetown. Home to Southwestern University and about 55 thousand residents, the suburban sprawl of Georgetown might seem like an unlikely location for a green energy revolution, but that’s just what the city is undertaking.
In March of this year, the City of Georgetown announced that it is on track to switch over to renewable energy sources by 2017. The city plans to achieve this goal by purchasing 150 megawatts of solar energy and 144 megawatts of wind energy.
According to a press release, this transition will make the city of Georgetown “one of the largest municipally-owned utilities in the U.S. to supply its customers with 100-percent solar and wind energy”. The green energy will come from two Texas sources: The Spinning Spur 3 Wind Farm in West Texas that is currently under construction, and from two large solar plants owned by SunEdison.
Although it is believed to be better for the environment, that’s not necessarily the reason for the switch. By purchasing these megawatts at fixed prices with a 20-year contract, Georgetown is not only going green, they’re actually lowering their costs to power the city. Governmental regulations on emissions can make energy produced from coal more expensive, and as the green energy industry grows in size, production outputs rise which results in lower costs across the board.
In addition to the lower cost, Georgetown cites a benefit in water conservation from the switch as well. Renewable energy uses far less water to create than energy generated via power plants where water is heated to create steam, and water is also used to cool the equipment used in those processes. Though Texas has recently been inundated by rainfall, and had most of its water supplies replenished, these rains came very suddenly at the end of a four-year drought that plagued the lone star state, so water conservation remains a top priority in Texas.