Solar power shines in eyes of Americans

HOUSTON — Americans are cozying up to the idea of solar power, with nearly 80 percent saying they view it positively, according to a survey released Monday.

Solar power’s reputation took a blow following the collapse of solar panel provider Solyndra in 2011. But the Navigant Research survey found steady advances in technology and lower costs have led the public to once again back solar’s development as a viable renewable energy resource.

“Solar energy is one of the most popular and least controversial green technologies in the eyes of consumers,” said Clint Wheelock, managing director of Navigant Research, in a written statement. “But it is followed closely by wind energy, which gained a favorable response from 72 percent of Americans.”

New project: First Solar announces plant for West Texas

The future of solar power in Texas is especially bright, driven by some of the country’s best resources and lowest prices. The potential solar energy from a single acre of land in West Texas is capable of producing the energy equivalent of 800 barrels of oil each year, according to the Texas Energy Conservation Office.

In Texas, installed solar systems cost a little less than $4 per watt of power generating capacity, compared to the nationwide median of $5.30 per watt, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory. Texas is also the sixth largest supplier of solar power jobs, with more than 4,000 solar workers in the state, mostly to install and manufacture parts.

The growing interest in solar power is motivating power companies to come up with their own solar strategies. For example, NRG Energy announced Monday the acquisition of a solar company that provides services to customers interested in generating their own solar power.

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