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Dallas County Spends Big on Solar Energy

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Solar Panels | Image by Kampan/Shutterstock

Dallas County has officially signed a three-year contract to purchase solar energy for all 55 of its buildings, including the county jail, starting in January.

The contract was signed through Public Power Pool (PPP), a Texas Conference of Urban Counties nonprofit that negotiates energy contracts between local governments and suppliers.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins serves on the board for PPP. The Dallas Express reached out to Jenkins to ask if this situation involves a conflict of interest but had received no response at the time of publication.

Jenkins previously said he believes the County must show its commitment to renewable energy as an example to private businesses.

“When people vote with their pocketbook, it helps those renewable sources grow,” he said. “We don’t have to wait for some magical future. We can do what we can do right now, today.”

David Quin of PPP said Dallas County is the first of its 95 clients to opt for full renewable energy. Most of the energy will be purchased from Fort Bend County Solar Farm.

The County directed PPP to procure renewable energy that would cost at least 10% less than energy reliant on fossil fuels, yet this contract reportedly costs 25%, or $3 million, more than the County’s existing energy plan.

David Griggs of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter claimed this contract “is a win-win for Dallas County and the environment.”

However, there are downsides to using solar energy.

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, one of the most significant complaints about solar energy is its lack of consistency and reliability.

Solar panels rely on a regular absorption of sunlight, which can easily be disrupted by factors such as clouds, the night, and the panels’ locations.

The Dallas Express asked the County if there will be any danger of its buildings losing power when they are supplied by solely by renewable energy, as well as whether conventional energy will be employed in the case of low renewable output. No response was received by press time.

Additionally, a study published in the Harvard Business Journal in 2021 found that solar panels have to be replaced at an unexpectedly rapid rate. The panels’ short lifespan creates a “real danger” that they will be discarded in landfills, the study notes, in which case the waste they create will effectively make their electricity production four times more expensive than previously thought.

“The economics of solar … [will] darken quickly as the industry sinks under the weight of its own trash,” wrote researchers Atalay Atasu, Serasu Duran, and Luk N. Van Wassenhove.

“And that’s not even taking into consideration the further impact of possible new regulations and incentives launched by the green-friendly Biden administration,” they continued.

Planners of new buildings and renovations within Dallas County have also been told by commissioners to abide by Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards, a national green building rating system that they have opted to prioritize.

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