Solar energy looking at bright future in Texas

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In weather like this, it’s easy to see why global players like Starbucks and Facebook are investing in solar power throughout Texas.

There’s a solar movement happening in Houston, including on a residential scale. Jimmy Garrett runs KW Solar and he's seen our growth firsthand.

“For the most part, we’ve reached a point where you can find a good spot to put solar on just about any home,” Garrett said.

That’s especially true of homes here in Texas, where the solar industry seems to have a bright future.

“Texas has become the second fastest growing solar market in the country now,” Garrett said. “So we expect it to be a boom in Texas for several years to come.”

If recent growth continues, Texas has the potential to beat out California for the No. 1 spot. The amount of solar installations in Texas increased by 50% in 2018. According to Green Mountain Energy, that’s enough to power over 350,000 homes.

“Over the next five years, so by the end of 2024, we expect it to triple again,” Solar and Strategic Partnerships Manager Daniel Richmond of Green Mountain Energy said.

Companies like Green Mountain are putting major resources behind the solar movement in Texas, especially near Houston and Dallas.

“We’re trying to change the culture and instill a culture of being more renewable, more sustainable and more environmentally friendly,” Richmond said.

But for homeowners, the motivation may be a different kind of green.

“Putting a system on your roof now in most cases should cost less than the alternative of buying electricity from the grid,” Garrett said. “So the primary motivation by far is saving money.”

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that prices have dropped 47 % over the last five years. This is also the last year for a 30% federal rebate on residential solar.

What was once a luxury has become a practical option for many.

“So over time you recoup all that up front investment, but with a finance system, you’re really saving money immediately from day one,” Garrett said.

In the solar market, those savings can last all year through a system called net metering.

“Any time you have a panel in the sunshine, it’s going to make electricity” Garrett said. “Essentially it’s the exact same thing as what’s coming from the grid at any time. If you’re generating more power than you’re consuming, you’ll actually push that electricity back through your meter. If you live in an area where you have the old style meter, you can actually see that meter spin backwards.”

In a city as big as Houston, energy companies appreciate that extra generating power. And they’re willing to pay you for it.

“When a customer has solar on their rooftop, they get credit at 100% of what they pay for any energy that they send back to the grid,” Richmond said in regards to Green Mountain’s policy.

You likely won’t see a check for that money, but you will see it in your energy bill.

“Net metering allows you to use the grid to store the extra and use it when you need it later,” Garrett said.

The impact of the industry goes far beyond individual homes. According to the SEIA, solar currently supports nearly 10,000 jobs in Texas.

“As the industry continues to grow, we’ll see those benefits keep accruing back to Texas and back to Texans,” Richmond said.

If residential solar isn’t right for you, companies like Green Mountain are investing in massive solar arrays, so you can still go solar without owning your own panels.

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