Texas Should Get Its Head in the New Solar Market Game

What would a world powered by clean, low-water energy look like? If you visit Israel’s southern region, you don’t have to imagine.

In 2011, Arava Power in the southern Israeli desert launched a 4.9 MW solar field (enough to power more than 3,000 U.S. homes). Since then nearly 200 times as much capacity – both fields and rooftops – has been installed in the region. By 2025, it’s likely solar will provide 100 percent of daytime electricity, plus excess, along the border with Jordan.

With solar technology more advanced and cheaper than ever, solar power can take off quickly in Texas, as it has in Israel.

The Arava Desert, where many of Israel’s solar fields are located, averages about 360 days of sunshine per year. Austin, where I live, averages about 300 days per year, and it’s not even as sunny as West Texas. But in January 2016, solar provided just 0.4 percent of power across the vast majority of the state. There is huge opportunity for solar growth in Texas. Read More »

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Saving Energy and Doubling Worldwide Water Supplies – One Drip at a Time

Netafim HQOn a warm December day, I stood in a jojoba field in the Negev Desert in southern Israel and watched water slowly seep up from the ground around the trees. First a tiny spot, then spreading, watering the plants from deep below. This highly efficient system is known as drip irrigation, and I was there to meet with the world’s leading drip irrigation company, Israel-based Netafim.

Naty Barak, the Netafim director who I met on the visit, notes that if the world’s farmers increased their use of drip irrigation to 15 percent (up from just under 5 percent now), the amount of water available for use worldwide could double.

Drip irrigation saves more than water. Whereas traditional irrigation typically uses quite a bit of energy, drip reduces the pressure (and power) needed to get the water to the crops while reducing the need for energy-hungry fertilizers. Plus, due to the inextricable link between water and power, saving water results in further saved energy.

Texas has already enhanced its water efficiency, but it could go further and take a page out of Israel’s book. By investing in thoughtful drip irrigation now, Texas could lead the nation on expanding this innovative technology and significantly reduce the energy footprint of its irrigation sector, while protecting water supplies for our growing cities and creating more sustainable farming practices. Read More »

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Texas Leaders Can Use Clean Energy to Increase Investments and Create Jobs. Here’s How.

GA_Washington_DC4It’s that time again. Texas leaders are meeting in Austin for the 85th Legislative Session and the next five months will be an interesting wrestling match over human rights, voting rights, bathroom rights, and local rights.

But what about our economic rights? A new report Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) issued to the Texas Legislature, Texas’ Clean Energy Economy: Prioritizing Jobs, Investments, and Growth, shows the Lone Star State’s evolving electricity landscape has created enormous economic growth and jobs. The report explores the policies put in place years ago that has allowed Texas’ power market to become cleaner and more affordable, and it outlines the state’s impressive job growth in energy efficiency, wind, and solar power.

The report urges our leaders to develop and implement a bold, comprehensive Texas energy plan to create well-paid jobs, drive innovation and investment, make us more energy independent, and protect our water supplies, while improving the health of Texans and the environment. Read More »

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This Year’s Super Bowl is Energy-Efficient. Shouldn’t Texas Be?

nrg stadium flickrThis weekend, thousands of people will descend upon Houston to watch the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons duke it out at the Super Bowl. But the game won’t be the only thing on display.

In 2014, Houston’s NRG Stadium became one of the first major sports venues to use LED energy-efficient lights. The system uses 60 percent less power than the previous lighting array, translating to significant energy savings. What if Texas took a page from NRG’s book to lead the country in saving energy?

Texas recently kicked off its 85th Legislative Session. Now is the time for state leaders to seize on energy efficiency as a win-win-win path, creating local jobs while helping Texans save money and water, and reducing electricity waste and pollution. Read More »

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As New Energy Secretary, Rick Perry Will Inherit Trump’s Assault on American Clean Energy

Rick Perry by Gage SkidmoreThose of us who lived through Rick Perry’s governorship in Texas were concerned he’d take his “pollution-first” mentality to Washington. But the Trump administration’s assault on clean energy started before Perry cleared the first hurdle for becoming Secretary of Energy today, signaling he’ll likely be confirmed by the full Senate.

In two short weeks, President Trump laid out the dismal, dirty, and dangerous energy platform he’ll expect Rick Perry to execute. It’s up to us to protect and defend the jobs clean energy creates, along with its benefits for business, consumers, health, and our natural resources.

Energy efficiency
President Trump’s regulatory freeze halted four rules designed to reduce energy waste and, consequently, energy bills and greenhouse gas pollution. The Washington Post reported, “The freeze would appear to have the effect of sweeping up four very nearly finished Energy Department energy efficiency standards, affecting an array of products, including portable air conditioners and commercial boilers.” Heating and cooling use the most energy in buildings. This rule on commercial air-conditioners was published last year. The amount of C02 reduction and the fact that the Department of Energy negotiated the rule with industry make it a landmark example of how efficiency rules don’t hurt manufacturers while saving utility customers billions of dollars. Closing off this avenue of cooperation between the government and industry stakeholders takes away drive for innovation and allows others (China) to take the lead. Read More »

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Lowering Desalination’s Energy Footprint: Lessons from Israel

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Kate Zerrenner and Leon Kaye of Triple Pundit standing in a desalination pipe at Sorek.

There’s an old expression that whisky is for drinking and water is for fighting over. The Legislative Session is upon us again in Texas, and count on water being an issue, as it always is in this drought and flood-prone state.

To start, this Session will see the approval of the 2017 State Water Plan (SWP), which is done in five-year cycles. In the five years since the last plan, Texas has gone from the throes of a devastating drought to historic flooding, which resulted in some reservoirs being full for the first time in 15 years.

Moreover, as more people move to Texas and climate change advances, there will be greater strain on the state’s water supplies. According to the SWP, Texas is already in a tighter situation than it was just five years ago: Surface water and groundwater availability will be 5 percent lower in 2060 compared to predictions in the 2012 plan, and existing water supplies are expected to drop by 11 percent between 2020 and 2070. Where are we supposed to get the water we need? Read More »

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