Energy panelists discuss renewable energy

Nidia Cavazos

Three members from the energy industry discussed the future of renewable energy in an on-campus panel hosted by the UT Energy Symposium on Thursday.

The panel, held in the Peter O’Donnell Jr. Building, addressed the specific aspects of how to move toward a solar powered society.

Clay Butler, managing partner at The Butler Firm, a consulting firm focused on clean and renewable energy transactions, said citizens need to turn their attention and actions to the solar industry.

“What are you passionate about?” Butler said. “Whatever you are passionate about, you can do it with the solar industry. The market is being born and it is unlimited.”

The speakers said that the solar industry is new, though, the idea of solar-derived energy has long been established. The panelists said people usually oppose solar energy because they do not have enough information about its benefits.

Spivey Paup, solar development manager at the energy company E.ON, said several preliminary actions need to be taken in order to build solar fields and wind farms.

“Environmental analysis, historical survey, permitting, geotechnical engineering design, energy sales, financing and construction are some of the factors that are taken into consideration,” Paup said.

After the speakers finished their presentations, members of the audience had time to ask questions or bring up concerns about solar power. Several audience members discussed the economic impact of solar powering, including the potential tax revenues and other incentives for local communities to make the transition.

Colin Meehan from First Solar, an American provider of photovoltaic solar energy solutions, said cost is an incentive for switching to solar energy.

“Under current [Electric Reliability Council of Texas] assumptions, solar [will be] cost-competitive in 2021,” Meehan said.

Allan Aw, a global policy studies graduate student who attended the symposium, said it was his interest in solar power that specifically brought him in to listen.

“I was part of the Alliance for Energy Public Policy club that hosted this talk and I think, in general, all of us that are in that club in the LBJ school are very interested in energy policy,” Aw said. “In general, I think all of us have interest in utilities and power, and that is what brought me here.”