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Austin Energy launches 2.6-MW community solar facility in Texas

Austin Energy began receiving energy from its La Loma community solar project, enabling the utility to provide 100% locally generated solar energy to its residential customers in East Austin, Texas.

The company claims the 2.6-MW facility is the largest community solar project in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas area. The project is equipped with 9,000 solar panels that are capable of generating approximately 4,400 MWh of electricity annually. Community solar allows customers to share electricity generated by a central facility instead of installing individual rooftop solar systems, the company explained.

The community solar rate currently adds $10 to $18 per month to an average customer's bill, according to Austin Energy's website. The program allows customers to lock in the price for 15 years.

In December 2017, the Austin City Council approved the city-owned utility's plan for helping low-income customers purchase locally produced solar power at a discounted rate. Under that plan, Austin Energy will dedicate half of La Loma's generation to low-income customers participating in the City of Austin Utilities' customer assistance program, according to a Dec. 21, 2017, release. Under that program, roughly 200 low-income customers are to pay a discounted fixed community solar rate, which will be slightly below their current power supply rate.

"Austin Energy's Community Solar Program is another great example of what happens when the City Council, the community and the utility work together to drive value for all of our customers," city-owned utility's General Manager Jackie Sargent said in a March 23 release announcing the project's launch.

The city-owned utility is in the process of installing a 1.5-MW storage at the Kingsbery substation to test solar and storage integration.