Georgetown transitions to 100 percent renewable energy
While most cities around the country rely primarily on fossil fuels for their energy, Georgetown is leading the way by going a greener route. The city already runs on 90 percent renewable energy and has plans to reach 100 percent in 2017, making Georgetown the third city in the country and the largest city in the United States to run on 100 percent renewable energy. The first one was Burlington, Vermont, which has a population of about 42,000, and the second was North Adams, Massachusetts, which has a population of about 14,000. Georgetown’s population is about 55,000, according to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau.
We caught up with Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross for more information on what prompted this decision, where the energy will come from, and what the change means for the city.
What was Georgetown’s main motivation for switching to 100 percent renewable energy by 2017?
First and foremost, it was a business decision that helped provide cost certainty to our ratepayers. We were able to sign fixed-cost contracts for 20 and 25 years that allow us to pay the same amount 20 and 25 years from now that we pay in year one of the contract—20 years for the wind farm with EDF Renewable Energy, and 25 years for the solar farm with SunEdison. That’s a beautiful thing because when we were negotiating this, the natural gas providers would give us a fixed rate contracts for only five to seven years. A contract for 20 years creates cost certainty, and it also allows us to do long-term strategic planning when it comes to electricity.
What other benefits will these changes produce?
When you have fossil fuel generation for electricity, it takes a lot more water than wind and solar. We’ve been under drought conditions with half-empty reservoirs in recent years, so switching helps our environment. Also, if you have clean energy like solar and wind, then when that power is generated, you’re putting fewer particles in the air, and that’s certainly good for the environment. Another important economic benefit: A lot of quality U.S. companies in the high tech sector have robust green policies and are looking for places either to expand or to relocate their operations in areas where renewable energy is available and affordable.
Where will Georgetown’s renewable energy come from?
We have windmills 20 minutes west of Amarillo that are up and running as we speak. They’re providing about 90 percent of the electricity for the citizens right now, so at this time we’re about 90 percent renewable energy. And then the solar farm is out toward Fort Stockton and will be built in the early part of 2017, and that will fill out our electricity portfolio.
What percentage of our electricity will still come from wind power after the Fort Stockton solar farms are up and running?
In the long run, about 60 percent of our electricity will be from wind, and the other 40 percent will be from solar.
Has it been challenging to get Georgetown citizens on board with this transition to renewable energy?
Actually, our move to renewable energy has been overwhelmingly supported. I’m out talking to people every day, and our citizens have a great sense of pride in being the first in the state of Texas [to make this transition]. Their feedback also has to do with pocketbook issues: “If this is going to bring consistency to the amount I have to pay to use electricity, I’m all for that!” But yeah, there is a sense of pride that we’re innovative and progressive when it comes to being a leader, not only in Texas but in the United States.