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San Antonio sharpens up its image with smart solar program

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San Antonio, the nation's 7th largest city, is sharpening up its image and attracting new businesses with the help of a new local solar investment program.

Despite the irony of its rich legacy in fossil fuels, several progressive cities in Texas are becoming literal hot beds of solar development activity, which in turn is attractive new businesses. Now, a new incentive program from local utility CPS Energy is likely to encourage even more investment activity, specifically in the city of San Antonio -- the nation's 7th largest city.

The CPS Energy Solartricity Producer Program, introduced at the end of August 2009, seeks to attract 20 to 400 solar producers in that can provide up to 10 megawatts of electricity that CPS Energy has agreed to purchase. Project applications begin in January 2010 for projects between 25 and 500 kilowatts. The buildout is proposed for a two-year period.

Solartricity essentially supports solar development projects by paying a premium price for the electricity produced by them, according to Andrew McCalla, founder and Meridian Solar, a solar technology integration firm that has been working in San Antonio from afar. "This will make it much more attractive for construction and lend itself to higher-quality projects."

The Applied Materials installation pictured below is one of Meridian Solar's existing installations in San Antonio.

The Applied Materials installation in San Antonio (24.4 kilowatts)

Meridian has already opened its office with a business development director, who also happens to be the former director of CPS Energy's solar rebate program. McCalla says that the Austin-based company will hire project designers first, as project planning dictates, followed by engineers. Even though Meridian Solar only has about 40 employees, it built two of the largest solar plant projects in Texas. It has built out more solar capacity in the state than any other company, and boasts clients including IBM, Starbucks, and the ranch of Willie Nelson.

So how about it Texas, is Houston next? We'll be watching.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure