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San Antonio to Spend $30.8M for Solar Panels at 42 Sites

This spring the city will begin implementing solar panels on city-owned sites, either on rooftops, as parking canopies or as shade structures in parks in community centers. Currently just 10 city buildings have solar panels to generate electricity.

The city of San Antonio will spend $30.8 million to install solar panels on 42 city-owned sites starting this spring.

Most of the panels will be placed on rooftops or arranged to create parking canopies, and some will provide shade for visitors to parks and community centers.

Currently, 10 city buildings are topped with solar panels.

"Here in the heart of Texas, on the doorstep of the largest fossil fuel reserves in the entire world, we are becoming a leader in new energy and new energy technology," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said on Thursday, when City Council approved the plan 9-1.

The project is expected to save the city $1.8 million per year, which will go toward maintaining the panels and paying off debt issued for the panels and their installation. The city plans to pay for the effort with $18.3 million of taxable bonds, a $2.5 million low-interest loan and about $10 million in tax credits.

District 10 Councilman Marc Whyte cast the sole "no" vote after expressing concerns over the debt the city will issue for the project.

Under a city contract, San Antonio-based Big Sun Solar will install the panels and maintain them for up to 25 years. The contract's term is 15 years, but it can be extended for two additional five-year terms.

Some of the sites that Big Sun Solar is eyeing include downtown parking garages, several community and senior centers, such as South Side Lions and Northeast senior centers, and multiple libraries, including Brook Hollow and Carver.

However, none of the 42 locations is set in stone. Big Sun Solar officials will examine each location to determine whether it's suitable for panels.

The company is spreading its work out over three fiscal years. This year, it will install panels on 18 facilities, then 19 next year and five in fiscal year 2026.

The installations are expected to be complete in fall 2026.

Originally, the city had wanted to put panels on 100 of its facilities, but some sites were not suitable because there wasn't a building that drew enough energy to make it useful or there was shade that covered the area where the panels could go.

The project is part of the city's efforts to achieve net carbon neutrality by 2050. To be carbon-neutral is to have net-zero carbon emissions. Chief Sustainability Officer Doug Melnick said the city is not currently on track to meet that goal.

Under the city's Climate Action and Adaptation Plan, which City Council adopted in 2019, emissions that come from powering buildings must be reduced 41 percent by 2030 and 74 percent by 2040.

The to-be-installed solar panels will reduce the city's building related emissions by 18 percent, Melnick said. It also will reduce the city's electricity consumption from buildings by 11 percent.

(c)2023 the San Antonio Express-News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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