Texas is an energy superpower, and not just for fossil fuels. The Lone Star State produces more natural gas than any other state, but it also leads the nation in wind energy.
It's also a massive, Southern, sun-baked state that is so full of the wide-open spaces needed for solar panels that it rivals California for the nation's largest solar-energy potential, according to an Energy Department report. Texas, the report says, is home to a full 20 percent of total U.S. potential for concentrated solar power.
Only a tiny percentage of that potential, however, has been exploited. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, Texas has only about 200 megawatts worth of solar-power panels installed. That's less than is currently firing in New Jersey, Massachusetts, and New York.
So why is Texas's solar sector floundering when other energy sources, even other fledgling renewable-energy sources, are surging? In short, because a confluence of policy choices and economic forces have stunted the state's solar growth — and few solar advocates see hope that the state landscape will change anytime soon.
"It's frustrating because you look and you think, 'Wow, this could be amazing,' " said Carrie Cullen Hitt, senior vice president of state affairs for the Solar Energy Industries Association. "Because it's a new market, you need some economies of scale going in and those states had some policies in place, be they rebates or tax incentives. Texas doesn't have those things "¦ and because of that, they have not had the market startup mechanisms in place."