September 03, 2017 / Denton Record Chronicle / Kyle Martin
The future might soon be looking brighter for solar energy as the city of Denton and a couple of local businesses engage in discussion and implementation of more renewable energy throughout Denton.
In light of Texas’ recent gas panic, some might wonder what the status of renewable energy around town is, how much of Denton’s energy comes from renewable sources and what local companies are doing to move forward with renewables.
Last month, the Denton City Council unanimously approved Target Corp.’s planned solar project, which was recommended for approval by the Public Utilities Board.
Target filed an application in March to install a 660-kilowatt system of photovoltaic solar panels atop the company’s distribution building on Airport Road. It would be the largest system integrated into the Denton Municipal Energy grid.
“I asked for this to be pulled because it is a great project and it’s a big one in our community,” council member Keely Briggs said during an Aug. 15 City Council meeting before motioning for the project’s approval. “And I’d like our citizens to see how the process works and encourage other customers to do the same and to know that there are grants or rebates available if they choose to do it.”
Also last month, a Dallas-based company with two executives who are University of North Texas alumni was named the No. 10 solar developer in the United States and the No. 1 solar developer in Texas by Solar Power World Magazine. The company, O3 Energy, installed a 50-kilowatt solar panel system on the Chase Bank building on University Drive in 2015.
“What’s funny is that we market it as the largest solar project in Denton County, because at that time it was,” said Preston Howell, vice president of O3 Energy and a 2009 UNT graduate. “But it’s actually the smallest project we’ve ever done.”
The system, though it lost the title of largest solar project in Denton County a short time later, is estimated to have offset the building’s energy consumption by about 50 percent annually.
“We were really wanting to get that project up in Denton just to get our feet wet here in Texas,” said Brad Stutzman, the chief operating officer for O3 Energy. “Our headquarters is here [in Texas], our offices are here, but we really haven’t seen a lot of solar.”
Stutzman, also a UNT alumnus who graduated in 2005, said what he’s noticed from getting into the renewable energy industry after 2008 is that “solar hasn’t picked up as much here” in Texas, with wind energy being the state’s leader in renewable energy. O3 Energy does business on larger projects than the Denton site mostly elsewhere in the country, in California, Arizona and Hawaii, and has future plans for business internationally in Guam and Mexico.
“I saw [renewable energy] as it was going to be the power-producing technology of the future,” Stutzman said. “Whereas you didn’t really hear about it much before – people thought it was kind of just a folklore kind of thing – everybody is jumping on board and that seems to be the trend where everybody wants to go.”
In the coming months, the Denton City Council will be seeing more discussion of renewable energy implementation and ideas. “We’ve engaged a consultant to help us look at our renewable energy portfolio and really kind of put together some options that we can get in a report and discuss with the council in the fall,” said Sarah Kuechler, assistant to the Denton city manager.
Kuechler said in an email that the city brought on Enterprise Risk Consulting LLC as its energy consultant last month to identify possible ideas and opportunities for renewable energy to add to the city’s energy portfolio and to “create an action plan that identifies the steps to be taken during the next year to meet the 2019 Renewable Denton Plan goal of 70% to 100% renewable energy resources.”
“Approximately 42-48% of the current DME power portfolio comes from renewable energy sources, with approximately 22% coming from direct renewable energy sources (versus Renewable Energy Credits),” Kuechler said.
The Austin-based consulting team is expected to begin working on site by the end of this week and will have a draft report of its findings by mid-October.
KYLE MARTIN can be reached at email@example.com.
FEATURE PHOTO: A 50-kilowatt solar panel system was installed atop the Chase Bank Building in 2015 by O3 Energy, a Dallas-based renewable energy company. The system is estimated to offset the building’s energy consumption by about 50 percent annually. Courtesy photo/O3 Energy