The Dawn of Solar Power: A Special Report by Caleb Califano

PERMIAN BASIN, Texas (Local 2/Fox 24) - In West Texas, oil and gas sit on top of the throne for energy production. However, in recent years renewable energy sources have started to make their way into the vast desert landscape.

Solar power is one of the sources, and recently more solar plants and homes in West Texas are warming up to the Dawn of Solar Power.

"Well the bottom line is that the technology in solar has gotten to the point where it makes a lot of sense," says Bob Zarbo the owner of local solar company Heartland Solar. 

Over the years, Zarbo and his crews have been responsible for a number of residential solar projects in the Permian Basin.

"The price is being driven down by the competitiveness of the global market," says Zarbo. "The global market is really coming on strong right now."

Zarbo says the advancements around solar panels, especially with their accessibility and durability, are a big reason behind the recent rise. Even places like the popular Cinergy movie theater use solar panels on top of their building for energy.

But solar power doesn't stop at residential in the Basin, it gets much bigger.

Just last month, the company 174 Power Global broke ground for the largest solar plant in Texas history. These plants power multiple areas including the oil and gas industry itself.

They say the West Texas landscape was ideal for the project.

"You need to have good sun, and there is plenty of it here. Also you need transmittion, you need to find a good flat land and you need to find a buyer for the electricity. We were able to find all of those for this project," says Jason Garewal, a representative for 174 Power Global.

Large solar plants like these don't just bring in power, they also bring in jobs and money. According to the company, just the construction alone will bring in hundreds of jobs.

"It's going to generate over 40 million dollars in local property tax revenue in the next 30 to 35 years," says Garewal.

While these numbers will put smiles on a lot of faces, it begs the question: what is the oil and gas opinion? At the Permian Basin Petroleum Association, they looked to answer that exact question.

"Most people would like to see a diversification of industry, even in the oil and gas industry," says Stephen Robertson, the executive vice president of the PBPA. "When you talk to people they don't want just one source of revenue, because when that source starts to suffer you don't have something else to rely on."

Robertson says that while oil and gas mostly do support alternative energy, they are concerned about having an even playing field.

"Having regulations in place so that are equal or fair to both parties, having tax benefits or tax burdens that are fair or equal to both parties is something that is really important when you are talking about the comparison between the two," says Robertson.

Energy diversification is new in the Permian Basin, and it's too early to tell how powerful it could truly become. But one thing is for sure, for right now, solar is here to stay in West Texas.

"People are realizing there is more than one way to get the energy you need for your daily needs," says Zarbo.

What do you think? You can voice your opinion in our poll here!


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