Denton is about to become the biggest U.S. city to run on renewable energy. The city council approved the new plan to install enough solar and wind sources to power everything by 2020. It joins Georgetown as the second city in Texas to make the commitment to sustainable energy.
With a population of over 130,000 people, Denton will become the biggest city in America that can fully run on renewable power. The city owns their own utility company, Denton Municipal Electric, which made it easier to approve the conversion. While households and businesses won’t directly get the greener power, they’ll generate enough renewable energy to offset their consumption rate.
Denton will be adding up to 300 megawatts of solar and wind capacity over the next two years. Some of their current power comes from the Gibbons Creek coal-fired power plant that’s owned by three other cities in the area. While attempting to sell the old plant, it’s no longer in full-time operation as of last September.
The move was backed by city mayor Chris Watts, telling NBC Dallas-Fort Worth that it’s “good business” to get into the renewable energy industry and they’re “doing what [they] can for the environment.” They join Georgetown, Texas -- located 200 miles south of Denton -- who was the first city in the state to make the switch.
Currently, Georgetown holds the title as the largest community that relies on sustainable energy in the US. They’re located 30 miles north of Austin and hold a population of just over 60,000 people, roughly half the size of Denton. They moved on from fossil fuels back in 2015, relying on nearly 100 wind turbines that are 500 miles away, and they’ll be using a new 150-megawatt solar farm that will come online this summer.
“Hopefully in 25 years they will say, ‘Hey, back in the day we had some really smart leaders that really put us on the right course,’” Georgetown Mayor Dale Ross told NBC Dallas-Fort Worth. Both Ross and Watts have been working together to help push Denton’s new goals forward.
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In 2016, Denton made a prior commitment to renewable energy and would build a 220-megawatt natural gas plant. That was met with some criticism, which prompted more aggressive goals that are now approved. While the city can run fully on renewable power, the natural gas plant will still be used when prices and demand are high, which could be up to 15 percent of the year.
Cyrus Reed, the conservation director of the Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter, gave praise to Denton for taking the next step: “The Sierra Club applauds Denton City Council for its leadership and pragmatism. They could have easily let their current plan ride, but they decided to take a closer look at their options and make smarter decisions that will save people money on their bills.”