Many US cities are increasing their green energy goals, with some, like Chicago, shooting for 100% renewable energy by the year 2025. Further south, Houston says, “We have NO problem,” with nearly 90% of its municipal electricity already being generated by renewable sources. Part of that comes from the recently constructed SolaireHolman plant, which saw “first light” in the spring of 2017. The 50MW solar powerhouse provides electricity to the city of Houston through a power purchase agreement (PPA). Additionally, the plant delivers wholesale power to ERCOT, the Texas state power grid. (The US is divided into three main power grids: Eastern, Western, and Texas. Why does Texas have its own grid? Because it’s Texas, I suppose.)
Covering 360 acres of land, the array contains more than 200,000 solar panels arranged into 26 blocks.
Every block has 98 rows with self-powered single-axis trackers that allow each row’s 80 solar modules to follow the sun on its daily east-west journey across the sky.
I plugged the array size and a few other parameters into PVWatts, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s solar energy estimation tool, which calculated that this PV farm could generate nearly 79 GWh of energy per year, covering roughly 10% of Houston’s municipal electricity needs.
For two consecutive years, Houston has been highest ranking local government on the EPA’s list of green energy users. It’s also the seventh best overall green power user in the US. The SolaireHolman plant should help the city retain its status as one of America’s greenest cities. When it comes to achieving Houston’s renewable energy goals, failure is not an option.