Environment Texas Wants More Solar Power (Big Surprise)

Environment Texas held a press conference today in front of the Mirabeau B. Sales Center at the corner of Waugh and Hyde Park to, excuse the pun, shed light on the positives of solar energy, specifically in terms of promoting "green" collar job growth in the solar power industry and reducing energy costs in Texas.

"Texas is somewhat behind, quite frankly," said Ralph Parrott, founder and owner of Alternative Power Solutions in Houston. He admits that Texas needs to give the same level of incentives that California, Colorado and other states offer in order to get over the hump of upfront costs.

Alejandro Savransky, Eric Goodie, Ralph Parrott and Joe Meppelink

For those in the dark (sorry, more bad puns), photovoltaic (PV) systems are what is used to convert our blazing Houston sunlight into electricity. Discovery Green, City Hall and clusters of parking meters are already equipped with the new technology, while a proposal awaits authorization on a large system set out on the roof of George R. Brown Convention Center, says Joe Meppelink, principal at MetaLab and adjunct assistant professor at the University of Houston College of Architecture.

The Mirabeau B. Sales Center holds the place for its forthcoming condominiums and served as the poster-child and backdrop for the press conference. Designed by MetaLab, the meters do indeed spin backwards here, said Meppelink.

The plug for solar power is not solely to encourage commercial use, but also home owners as well.

"If the system increased your property value by $30,000, that will not increase your property taxes," said Parrott, "and that's a direct bottom line increase on your property value that pays itself back day one."

Another proposal would make sure that homeowners' associations across the state would be relinquished of their right to ban solar panels on their properties. Some are already taking progressive action; the mayor's office even sent a letter to HOAs, encouraging them to allow solar on their properties, Parrott said.

According to Environment Texas' report, "Wildcatting the Sun: A Texas Solar Roadmap," the Renewable Energy Policy Project estimates that, by 2015, a national move to encourage PV could create as many as 5,500 jobs in Texas.

"What we see is not necessarily new jobs creation, but the innovation of existing jobs," said Eric Goodie, Director of Workforce Development, Houston Area Urban League. "Construction will be less shovel-oriented, and more solar-panel-installation oriented."

One would hope.

Goodie and the Houston Area Urban League are collaborating with Houston Community College and Lone Star Montgomery College to help create specific academic career paths for students interested in the field, as well as reaching out to other members of the community in need of a job.

The income that "green collars" can expect vary, from six-figures to $20/hr, depending upon one's education and experience in the field. Programmers and technical services managers can anticipate an annual salary ranging from $65-80,000, meanwhile, with outside sales, the sky's the limit, Goodie said.

And what green initiative would be complete without the obligatory Obama mention:

Goodie said, "President Obama's administration is aggressively pursuing going green, and we look to really enhance the scale of economy with those available resources to train and employ consumers that walk through the doors of the Houston Area Urban on an ongoing basis."

Alejandro Savransky, Field Organizer for Environment Texas, announced that two of the 15+ bills filed at the state level in support of solar technologies would result in the installation of 500,000 solar roofs.

"What we need to have is more incentives so that it's affordable for people to actually make the investment," Savransky said. He also stated that solar power can be stored as a liquid that heats up, which can then be released, producing steam that can be used to power turbines and provide energy, etc.

It seems that solar energy can power just about anything, so why not power our pocketbooks? You know, while the sun's at it and all.

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