SA congressman's district tops Lone Star State for solar jobs
The solar energy industry is growing the fastest in some of the most politically conservative corners of the Lone Star State, a new report from the Solar Foundation shows.
The foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census last week with charts that display the distribution of solar jobs by counties and by districts for the Texas House of Representatives, Texas Senate and U.S. House of Representatives.
Not surprisingly, Bexar County is ranked as one of the leading hot spots for solar in Texas. Fueled by rebates from CPS Energy, San Antonio's city-owned utility company, the number of solar installation and manufacturing jobs skyrocketed in 2016. Data from the foundation's report shows that the number of solar jobs in the San Antonio area grew by 146 percent and now stands at 1,767 workers.
What may be surprising to many, however, was that significant numbers of solar jobs are in districts represented by Republican lawmakers who have reputations for being conservative and staunch supporters of the fossil fuels industry.
Many congressional districts begin in major metropolitan areas where solar companies have offices and spread to rural areas where many of the state's utility-scale solar farms are located.
Of the top 10 congressional districts for solar in Texas, eight of them are held by Republican lawmakers. The state's No. 1 district for solar employment — with 1,346 jobs — is represented by U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, with whom environmentalists have long been at odds. Smith — who chairs the House Committee on Science, Space & Technology — is known in political circles as a climate change skeptic.
When contacted by the Business Journal about the report, Smith was not surprised that his district is a hot spot for solar.
“Texas is an all-of-the-above energy state with an economy that ranks 11th in the world, so it’s no surprise that solar power is thriving right alongside wind and fossil fuels," Smith said. "The energy leaders in the 21st District have taken strides to create less costly energy for Texans, create jobs and grow our economy.”