The City of Denton is in the process of becoming the largest city in America, and only the second city in Texas, to buy all of its electricity from renewable sources.
“We want to make sure we are doing what we can for the environment, but it is also good business because of the market that we are in right now,” said Denton Mayor Chris Watts about his city’s effort to draw all of its power from wind and solar sources by 2020.
Last week Denton city council members approved an update to the city’s energy plan that calls for the change.
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Like some cities in Texas, Denton owns and operates its own electric utility – Denton Municipal Electric.
Part of the motivation for “going green” is that one of the primary sources for electricity in Denton – a coal-fired power plant near College Station – is expected to go offline within the year.
The first city in Texas to purchase all of its power from renewable sources is Georgetown, about 200 miles south from Denton along Interstate 35.
With a population of more than 60,000 people, Georgetown is currently the biggest city in the United States that gets its power primarily from wind and solar sources.
Situated about 30 minutes north of Austin, Georgetown decided to abandon fossil fuels for energy in 2015.
“Hopefully in 25 years they will say, ‘Hey, back in the day we had some really smart leaders that really put us on the right course,’” Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross said with a smile.
Mayor Ross has become an unlikely champion for green energy in his community with deep-red political ties. Ross is a Republican himself, who attended the inauguration of President Donald Trump, but admittedly differs with many of those in his party who see bucking fossil fuels as tantamount to treason.
"I always thought, 'Well doesn't everybody make decisions based on the facts?' And I soon learned that no, partisan politics skews people's thinking. And so thank God in Georgetown, Texas we still base decisions on the facts,” Mayor Ross said.
The facts in Georgetown, according to the Mayor, were that the prices of traditional power sources for their municipal electric company were too volatile and therefore difficult to predict beyond a matter of a few years.
But when Georgetown signed a contract with EDF Renewables for the use of 97 wind turbines 500 miles away, outside of Amarillo, it locked into a consistent rate that will be in place until 2039.
In addition, this summer a 150 megawatt solar farm will come online in West Texas that will further fuel Georgetown’s commitment to renewable energy.
Both mayors acknowledge that their respective city staffs have been in contact with one another during the run-up to Denton’s recent announcement of its 2020 goal.