Local Town Tries to Reach Energy Self-Sufficiency

Farmers Branch City Hall Building
Farmers Branch City Hall Building | Image by Farmers Branch/Facebook

Officials in Farmers Branch have been working to transform the city into the state’s first municipality with the ability to produce enough energy to sustain its facilities.

The city’s plans have involved installing solar panels on the roofs of its fire stations, library, and recreation center, but the biggest move has been to try to convert a capped landfill into a 20-acre 6.5-megawatt solar farm.

“There’s no reason an old landfill needs to sit there and just grow weeds,” said Mayor Terry Lynne, according to WFAA. “Now, it’s growing power.”

Although the landfill is located along Valley View Lane and the President George Bush Turnpike, developers will have to navigate plenty of state regulations to do anything with it.

“[No] one could develop it,” said Shane Davis, Farmers Branch’s director of sustainability, per WFAA. “It was expensive.”

The City of Farmers Branch unveiled its plans to build the solar farm last year.

BQ Energy Development will lease the land from the city and “design, build, and operate the solar farm,” according to a news release. The city will then purchase the electricity from the New York-based firm at a fixed price over the next two decades to power its buildings.

“The economic benefits of that are huge,” Lynne claimed, per WFAA. “I think it’s really exciting. It shows that cities can be progressive and innovative.”

“We saw an opportunity to help benefit the electric grid and benefit the city at the same time,” added Lynne.

The idea to become self-sustaining came after the Texas power grid failed in 2021 during Winter Storm Uri.

“Just seeing the impact that it had on the local, just everybody in terms of losing their electricity, [we wondered] is there anything we can do,” Davis said.

Lately, the grid has been pushed to its brink as rising demand threatens to surpass the state’s power supply due to triple-digit temperatures, as covered by The Dallas Express. Electricity customers in the state have repeatedly been asked to conserve energy this summer.

Some Texas lawmakers and industry experts have blamed the underperformance of the grid on wind and solar power.

Rep. Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) noted, “Thermal generation sources (natural gas, coal, and nuclear) are performing at 72.5% of their installed capacity while renewable sources are performing at 26% of their installed capacity.”

Others have suggested that renewables have, on the contrary, been the only thing to keep the grid afloat.

For example, Aaron Zubaty, CEO of the investment company Eolian, claimed, “Without this amount of added solar resources, the grid would be in dire straits during midday hours,” per The Texas Tribune.

There are some downsides to the new solar farm project in Farmers Branch. For instance, since the power lines will not run directly from the farm to the buildings, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas will still need to facilitate the energy transfer.

Moreover, residents will be unable to use the energy produced to power their homes. Nonetheless, the city does offer a Solar Switch program, which aims to reduce the hassle and cost for any homeowners looking to install solar panels.

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