Dallas County is going green.
The county signed a three-year contract to buy solar power for 55 of its buildings, including the county jail, beginning in January.
County Judge Clay Jenkins said it’s important for the county to demonstrate its commitment to renewable energy and prove to businesses that it’s possible to rely entirely on wind and solar power.
“When people vote with their pocketbooks, it helps grow renewables,” Jenkins said.
The county contracts with the Public Power Pool, a nonprofit organization founded by the Texas Conference of Urban Districts that works with state governments and political districts to regulate energy contracts. Jenkins is a board member.
David Quin of Public Power Pool said Dallas County is the first of 95 businesses to go all-renewable.
Sources can be difficult to trace because all energy ends up on the grid before being transmitted to customers. Quin said he directed the Dallas County Public Power Pool to purchase power from a solar farm in Fort Bend County.
The county directed the Public Energy Pool to find renewable energy that costs 10% or less than fossil fuel-based energy. The contract costs an additional 25%, or $3 million, over the county’s existing energy plan.
Now is the time to invest in renewable energy for a better future, Jenkins said. North Texas is one of the largest areas in the country not meeting national air quality standards.
There are a number of nonattainment areas across the country, which means the air quality does not meet the national ambient air quality standard. National Ambient Air Quality standards are set at levels necessary to protect public health.
US Environmental Protection Agency spokesman Joseph Robledo said ozone in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was reported to be 75 parts per billion in 2008 and 70 parts per billion in 2015.
Dallas Environmental Commission air advisor and North Texas Public Citizen advisor Rita Beving said in a press release that the agreement supports the expansion of renewable energy in Texas while supporting the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels.
“With the region seriously underachieving in terms of air quality, this agreement sets a new bar for other neighboring countries,” Beving said.
Reliance on cleaner energy sources than fossil fuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions, a major contributor to climate change.
Climate change is already affecting North Texas. Both average daily minimum and maximum temperatures in Texas rose by 2.2 degrees Fahrenheit from 1895 to 2020, according to a 2021 report published by the state climatologist.
In 2036, the average annual surface temperature in Texas is expected to be 3 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than the 1950-1999 average. The number of 100-degree days is expected to nearly double by 2036 compared to 2001-2020, with more 100-degree days in urban areas, the report said.
Jenkins said the agreement is a step in the right direction to prevent further increases in temperatures.
“We don’t need to wait for a magical future. We can do what we can do now, today,” Jenkins said.
Dallas County designs new buildings and renovates old buildings with green standards in mind. The county has opted to achieve LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, a national green building rating system.
South Dallas Government Center received certification. The Oak Cliff Government Center, Records Building and North Dallas Government Center have been built or are being renovated to meet LEED standards, but the paperwork for official certification has not yet been completed, said Assistant County Administrator Jonathon Bazan.
Commissioners directed all new construction and facilities to meet the standards.
“More projects are underway to meet the standard,” Bazan said in an email.
David Griggs of the Sierra Club Lone Star Chapter said the deal shows the government can play a big role in fighting the climate change crisis by choosing affordable, reliable renewable energy.
“It’s a win-win for Dallas County and the environment,” he said.