Grapevine, Texas, up in the northern border region with Oklahoma, is home to about 50,000 residents. This town can trace its root back to the mid-1800s, so it is not an old settlement at all. This means modernity, perhaps in the form of a home solar energy system, would not be out-of-touch with the residents. The town is also a suburban settlement of that metropolis Dallas-Fort Worth, and Grapevine holds the keys to the city’s airport. Why not show how slick Grapevine can be with your own solar system? Based off observations from Dallas, the area experiences about 2,850 hours of sunshine per year, 64% of the total possible sunshine hours. This is the average from 1981 to 2010, but weather does not change all that much. This means the area is ripe for capturing solar energy.
The sun, a fusion reactor, is great at its job. This behemoth source sends more energy to the surface of the Earth in a couple hours than the world consumes in an whole year. Our energy needs are increasing, certainly, but the sun can provide a huge portion without causing significant carbon contributions or covering the planet in solar panels. While great, 100% efficient solar panels do not have to appear – it is an engineering impossibility anyway – but solar energy production is becoming more accessible to the individual homeowner. The brain behind Tesla Motors, Space X, and various other futuristic companies, Elon Musk, has announced his company will offer attractive, modern solar roofs for less than a regular roof (of course depending on roofing material).
This is a manifestation of the Swanson Effect (see below graphic):
The effect’s premise is that the more solar panels sell, the cheaper they will be. In simple economic terms, it occurs because more competitors enter the market and the successful ones dump money into research to best their new competitors. The price of solar panels has more than halved in just the four years from 2008 to 2012.
Not only can you produce your own energy, you can help save the planet at the same time. We owe it to future generations to take care of our planet, and installing solar is one way – even possibility a lucrative way – for you to participate.
A 5kW solar system will take about $20,000 to install. While that may seem too great at first, there are many ways to finance it and even reduce the initial. First, note that it doesn’t matter where you live, but the federal government allows you to apply a tax credit of 30% on any new installations. This means the cost is more like $14,000. Furthermore, you will be able to take the increased $20,000 worth of equity on your property to market, but Texas lets you exclude that $20,000 system from your property taxes. This is known as the Renewable Energy Systems Property Tax Exemption and actually covers other forms of renewable energy, too.
Dallas can be hot in the summer, requiring air conditioning plus any other energy-intensive activities you do. With Grapevine’s economy largely based on tourism, a lot of those tourists are going to come from other, cooler-than-Texas areas and want air conditioning. If you ever set up shop for those tourists, you will need to power your air conditioning system This can all be supported by an appropriately sized solar system, and you will eventually reap the benefits of the not having to rely on fossil fuel power generated by some utility company uninterested in you. What exactly is your ROI? That depends on how you finance your system: cash, credit, and leasing the equipment. So if the $20,000 figure is holding you back, even after the government incentives, you may still be able to install a system using one of the financing plans.
Cash is the best and most financially advantageous way to finance the installation. It entails, as the label suggests, setting aside a large chunk of cash to outright buy the system. You won’t have to make any interest payments, the system is absolutely yours, and you can immediately reap the benefits of saving energy from the power company. If you save $1000/year on energy costs, not an unheard of number for Grapevine, your system could pay for itself in just a little over 10 years. If your home consumes a lot of energy or your business tends to require a lot of electricity, you could save significantly more than that. With no interest and immediate ownership, cash is the best way to finance, if you can afford it.
Credit If you cannot afford it, credit may be a better option. Perhaps you can afford it but don’t want to tie up that much of your liquid capital. You will need to talk to your preferred bank, but throughout Texas there are several banks that can assist you specifically in loans made for solar implementation. You may already bank with one of the institutions that offer specialized loans. To make credit more attractive, the government will let you deduct the interest payments (not the principal payments) from your taxes. Once you pay off the loan, you will become the owner the equipment and do with it as you see fit.
Leasing is paying for the privilege of using a company’s equipment. You do not own the equipment and must return it at the end of the contract. At the lease expiration, you can renegotiate the terms or return the system to the lessor. You won’t have to put up collateral or a lot of cash, as you are simply borrowing the equipment, so this type of financing is for those who just want to power their homes. You won’t get any of the tax credits or rebates, since the equipment isn’t yours, and, in the end, you will need to send it back. This option is for those who want to minimize their carbon footprint and their capital expenditures.
The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a state’s legislative attempt to introducing renewable energy sources. It posits a goal for the state to achieve. This measure gives an idea of how serious the state government is in helping its citizens and itself achieve fossil-fuel energy independence. The higher the number, the better, and Texas does well in this regard.
Texas installed a lot of wind energy in the 1990s. Wind projects are geared towards institutions, as they require a lot of capital and land. You can help achieve Texas’s solar requirements. The Texan RPS was 5,880MW by 2015 and 10,000MW by 2025. The RPS also stipulates that at least 500 of those megawatts must come from non-wind sources. These goals have both been exceeded (as of 2013), though 96% of the power was through wind. The RPS goals have been met, but you can still find suppliers offering rebates. Don’t expect much more assistance from the state in the future, though; at least until the RPS is revised upwards.
Texas knows how to produce wind energy, but it is also a great place for solar. The state employs 28,000 people in the renewables industry per the most recent release from the Office of the Governor of Texas. California comes in first, but California also has a lot more people to put to work. Texas, being a southern state and part of the Sunbelt, offers largely conducive conditions for solar. Grapevine sits in a decent area of the entire state for solar energy capture, generating between 4.5 and 5.5 kWh per square meter per day. Your roof may only be a few square meters, but if you live in Grapevine, you can still capture sufficient solar energy.
The net metering rules in Texas are not as advantageous for homeowners as they are in states like California: the utilities are not required to offer net metering. However, in order to reach solar incentives, many electric providers offer net metering You can always switch to a different provider if one offering net metering serves your area. It will help offset the cost of installing the system.
Texas is a bastion for fossil fuels like oil and natural gas. The state has become rich from fossil fuels, and they are, at least for the time being, easily extractable. Texas offers incentives to install residential solar systems, even though they are not as supportive as some of the other states in the area. If you do not command the finances to invest, Texas will not help you too much. However, if you have the desire to downsize your carbon footprint and cut the energy companies loose, consider a home solar system.
Grapevine itself is a great place for solar installations, with the high average sunshine hours a day and the high temperatures, meaning you will be using a lot of energy to cool your home. Grapevine is certainly in a good position to install your very own solar panel system.