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  - - Featured Articles - - : Utilities Articles
Clean, Sustainable, Practical: Reviewing Costs and Savings of a Photovoltaic System to Provide Solar Energy for Your Texas Home


Solar Energy Festival in San Antonio, Texas
Texas has more renewable energy potential than any other state, especially access to solar energy. Solar energy resources are plentiful and more than sufficient for energy needs for everyone in the state.

The energy from sunshine falling on a single acre of Texas land is capable of producing the energy equivalent of 800 barrels of oil each year.

Yet, with the exception of farsighted planning by a few entities like Austin Energy and now CPS (San Antonio's energy company), there is virtually no support in the way of incentives and rebates for Texas homeowners to tap into the free, sustainable energy provided by solar power.

Although the source (sunlight) is free, the purchase and installation of the photovoltaic systems required to harness this amazing power is not. A complete PV system usually consists of one or more modules connected to an inverter that changes the PV's DC electricity to AC electricity. This conversion allows your system to power your electrical devices and, if you choose to stay on the electric grid, provides compatibility with your power company offerings.



We use masses of energy to run our refrigerators, air conditioners, computers and power-eating necessities to maintain a comfortable lifestyle, and the process required to convert the sun's energy for this purpose is often an investment many homeowners cannot afford. A significant upfront investment is required for installation of a full PV system that will supply all household needs. However, expenses for these homeowners can also be cut dramatically with the elimination of that monthly payment to the power company.

Over time, an investment in home solar panels is amortized throughout the life of the system, approximately 40 years. Considering that the price of power delivered by utility companies will likely rise dramatically, this investment just becomes smarter and better. A solar panel system can continue to deliver energy from the sun at a price that remains virtually constant.

And don't worry about your property taxes increasing when you add this important improvement to your home. Texas does now provide a property tax exemption to homeowners for the installation of solar systems. Any increase in your property value resulting from a PV installation is exempted from the homeowner's taxes. Businesses have an additional benefit...they can deduct the full cost of the system from their capital gains taxes or deduct 10 percent of the cost of the system from business income.

The high cost of PV cells has inhibited the adoption of solar power as a primary source for homeowners. A shortage of silicon coupled with demand over the last few years has kept costs high. However, new technology is bringing alternatives to the market at the same time PV cell production is revving up, and materials should become more affordable over the next few years. The State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) predicts that, according to a University of Texas study, homeowners will see a reduction of the cost of solar power over the next few years.

Even with the initial costs involved in switching to solar - piecemeal or off the grid - many forward-looking energy companies offer rebates to further reward your smart choice.

If you're lucky enough to live in the Austin Energy area, you can be the recipient of one of the most generous rebates in the country if you choose to install a photovoltaic system. The next most fortunate group is the population of San Antonio, where CPS has a substantial rebate program.

To tap into the vast potential for clean, renewable energy in Texas, a state-wide rebate incentive program is critical. Despite the close association of the Texas state government and oil company interests, such a program would be a win-win for the state and for all who live in Texas.

The positive environmental impact of a shift to solar power is enormous. SECO reports, "If photovoltaic (PV) systems operating at 10 percent average efficiency were distributed throughout 5 percent of Texas urban areas on building rooftops, over parking lots and along roadways, they would produce over half the electricity needed for Texas' current electrical consumption."

Now, that's food for thought!

Texas could lead the way to a clean, sustainable future in energy. It's past time to move away from the archaic and dirty fossil-fuel model for energy and welcome a new cleaner and healthier world.


RELATED RESOURCES

Austin Energy Rebate Program

CPS Energy Rebate Progam

How PEC stacks up with fewest rebates




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