OCI Solar Power

San Antonio, Texas has more than 200 sunny days a year. That's a big power resource, if the city can capture it. So the city-owned power utility, CPS Energy, is pushing to make solar energy a bigger part of its power generation portfolio. The effort is already making headway: According to a recent report from the Environment America Research and Policy Center, San Antonio ranks seventh in the nation with 108 megawatts (MW) of solar generation located within the city limits (see "Shining Cities 2016"). (Los Angeles, California, tops the list with 215 MW of installed PV).

In fall of 2015, CPS Energy launched an innovative pilot program to expand rooftop solar in city neighborhoods. Called the SolarHost program, the initiative aims to take advantage of the city's many sunny rooftops by relieving homeowners of the cost of solar panels. There's no upfront cost or operating cost for homeowners who participate: on the contrary, the utility pays homeowners 3 cents a kilowatt-hour (kWh) for power generated by the panels. All the homeowners have to do is agree to host the panels on their roof. Slate magazine described the program in 2015 (see: "Take My Solar Panel, Please!" by Daniel Gross.

1200 homeowners signed up for the deal within days, and according to the SolarHost website, the pilot program is full up for now. But CPS Energy is still taking applications for another solar program, offering customers an opportunity buy shares in a large ground-mounted solar generating array. The San Antonio Business Journal has this report (see: "CPS Energy roofless solar program slashes price," by Sergio Chapa).

But solar power is far from reaching its full potential in San Antonio. At this point, it's not even CPS Energy's top alternative energy source. Far outstripping the solar resource, according to CPS, is another big Texas player: wind. On one day last March, power from the utility's seven contracted windmills supplied 45% of the city's use, according to a CPS Energy blog (see: "Wind energy blows away old record," by Christine Patmon). On an annual basis, windmills supplied 11% of the power company's output in 2015. Solar panels supplied just over one percent.