It would have taken three or four thousand professional manhours.” And that, says Johnny Carter, was among the cheaper RFPs the firm has confronted: “Some RFPs are an inch thick. They. want to know who you’re going to work with, where they went to school, what kind of computer you’re going to use, where you’re going to get the computerit’s incredible.” Carter adds that Solar Dynamics must compete on RFPs with companies like Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. “They can afford to sink $100,000 into paperwork. We can’t.” In fact, in the winter of 1977, having finally convinced the government of its existence, Solar Dynamics -did submit a proposal. It cost the principals 1$5,000 and forced their Austin printer to close his doors to all other business in order to reprofirm’s investors raced the proposal by air to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, bursting through the door exactly 14 minutes before the final deadline. \(This was a very final deadline, or so Marke had been told in response to his several complaints of insufficient timefive weeksto prepare Marke had also been told, as late as 24 hours before the deadline, that Solar Dynamics was the only firm in the country responding to “Category B” of the RFP. This was the category for “point-focusing central steam conversion” systems, with categories A and C being reserved for “central-focusing” \(According to Marke, the JPL had been obliged to “create a new category” for Solar Dynamics, due to the paucity of other Each category was destined to receive $650,000 for research, and the knowledge that they had Category B all to themselves was a major factor in Marke and Carter’s determination to meet the deadline. “Are you from Solar Dynamics?” exclaimed an incredulous JPL official to the firm’s investor who handed him the proposal that morning. Again it was stated that Solar Dynamics alone had responded to Category B, and Marke and Carter were jubilant. That was November 11, 1977. In late February 1978, Marke was notified cryptically that Solar Dynamics “was still in the running” and would soon be audited by “the cognizant government audit agency in your area.” Two weeks later, a team of auditors from the Department of Defense \(with offices at Tracor, a large Austin electronics firm that works almost excluWhile they were perusing the books, however, a telegram arrived from JPL informing Marke that his proposal had been rejected because it wasn’t “in the competitive range.” No further explanation was offered, and Marke was instructed not to contact JPL, which would reach him later with information concerning the “appropriate debriefing process.” Last April, having yet to be “debriefed,” Marke was cabled an “Award of Contracts Notice” from JPL with the startling news that General Electric had won the contract for “pointfocusing central steam conversion”Category B. Marke was baffled and indignant. “That isn’t GE’s bag,” he says. “They’ve been working on linear arrays and barrel-salts heating systems. They’ve never announced work on point-focusing systems, and they damn well didn’t have a proposal in before the November deadline.” Six months later, nearly a year after the deadline, the corporation still had not declared any work in Category B. \(The JPL contracts for categories A and C went to Ford Aerospace o sister to the auto company, and Martin-Marietta, the guided that the primary, if not the only, reason for his rejection in favor of GE was simply the distaste of the federal government for doing business with small independent firms like his. “JPL didn’t think we could make the deadline,” he says, “and when we did they couldn’t stand it. They probably broke their necks getting to a telephone to call GE for a proposal.” and patient educational efforts. Clements should get to know TEAC itselfwhich is now the chief energy planning agency for the statewas established by the 65th Legislature as the successor to a “Governor’s” Energy Advisory Council appointed by Dolph Briscoe in 1973. The council is chaired by Lt. Gov. William Hobby and comprises most of the state’s major officeholders, including Mack Wallace of the Railroad Commission and House Speaker Billy Clayton. Not surprisingly, given its pro-oil-and-gas membership, TEAC has been less than zealous in promoting solar and other renewable energy sources. An important 1977 TEAC study called Texas Energy Outlook: The Next Quarter Century predicts that “solar, wind, and biomass” will contribute about 3 percent of the state’s “expected total energy supplies in the year 2000.” This compares with about 25 percent anticipated from oil, about 50 percent from natural gas, 12 percent from coal, and 10 percent from nuclear. likewise, in a draft of its comprehensive policy statement for 1979-80, TEAC dpvotes little more than a paragraphout of 14 densely written pages in The Texas ‘Registerto renewable energy resources. The draft is considerably more generous with coal and nuclear power, recommending, among other things, “that the development [in Texas] of nuclear power options including breeder and reprocessing efforts be pursued more positively.” Thus it is that Texas, which is second to none in its volume of solar radiation, ranks about 14th in its budgetary commitment, compared to other states with solar development programs. California is first, with an annual solar R&D budget of $17 million and a raft of supporting legislation designed to make solar a principal state industry by 1990. The legislation includes an income tax credit of 55 percent for solar installations and a low-interest loan program capitalized at $20 million. California also has a “cabinet-level” Office of Solar Energy Development. Part of the incentive for California’s pioneering solar efforts is a recent study by the California Public Policy Center which shows that a “solar industry meeting feasible California space and water heating needs between 1981 and 1990 could generate: 3,768,147 $1.9 billion.” There is no reason to suppose that Texas, with at least as commodious an industrial, economic, Climatic and demographic base as California’s, couldn’t equal or surpass that state in benefits accrued from a healthy solar industry. And, the benighted comments of Governor Clements notwithstanding, there are encouraging signs cropping up on the Texas political landscape. The Texas Public Utility Commission, for example, recently issued a strongly worded statement of support for, commission policies favoring solar energy development, and a . number of legislators have begun drafting pro-solar bills of their own. Somerville Rep. Bill Keese, a member of the House subcommittee on alternate sources of energy for agriculture, will propose a bill reducing state taxes on “gasohol” \(a blend of gasoline and alcohol derived from agricultural products via funded solar energy development bank that would give lowinterest loans to consumers and small producers of solar systems. Other legislators who are likely to offer or at least to support such proposals include Ron Waters of Houston, Dan Kubiak of Rockdale, and Doggett. There is even talk that a “solar coalition” may develop in the 66th Legislature. Should such a coalition emerge, it will have the blessing of those twothirds of Texas voters in the November election who said yes to Proposition 4authorizing the Legislature to exempt solar energy systems from state and local property taxes. Ray Reece
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