Solar Savings and San Antonio Utilities
Although solar is a better energy source than fossil fuels, it does have its disadvantages. The biggest drawback is that solar panels can’t produce power all the time. Finding the true cost of solar means taking a look at solar and its dependence on utilities.
The True Cost of Solar Panels
For many, the investment of solar doesn’t make sense unless you are also saving money. What you will actually save is dependent on where you live, but you can get an idea with a solar calculator.
Solar Panel Cost Calculator
Solar calculators take into account basic solar costs and generate possible savings. These estimates help solar customers know what to expect so they can determine a good deal.
The key, when looking at solar calculators, is to remember that they are basic estimates. Solar, however, is not a basic product. Unique complications arise in every project.
Solar Savings Estimator: Google
Google’s Project Sunroof program is one of the best solar calculators to start with. This calculator will give you an idea of how much of your roof is usable and the price you can expect.
However, it does not give you local solar competitor comparisons. This takes a little more work on your end. You can get an idea of how Go Solar Group compares by taking a look at our geo-specific solar savings calculator.
The Go Solar Group San Antonio Savings Calculator
The Go Solar Group San Antonio solar calculator does some basic cost analysis. It looks at Go Solar Group’s average product cost, CPS Energy’s rates and local incentives. Together, this gives a fair estimate of what CPS Energy customers can save with Go Solar Group.
What Determines Your ROI
There are several factors that go into the cost of solar. Here are some of the main ones and how they affect your net savings.
Buying Versus Leasing Solar Panels
The decision to buy or lease your solar panels has a large impact on your total cost. As with most other things that are leased, they have an appealing monthly price but, in the end, you pay more.
On top of this, those that lease solar don’t own the system. If you stay in the same house for the duration of your lease, this isn’t an issue, but if you want to sell your home it can be.
Leased arrays don’t increase home value and are hard to hand off to the buyer. In fact, most buyers don’t want anything to do with leased systems. Homeowners trying to sell often end up paying through the nose to end their solar contract early.
Federal Solar Tax Credit 2019
One of the main reasons solar is an option is the federal solar tax credit, otherwise known as the ITC. This is a dollar for dollar credit applied to any federal taxes you owe.
The catch is that this tax credit only works if you owe taxes. If you are living solely off of social security and don’t owe any taxes, then there is nothing to apply the credit to. However, those that have a taxed retirement fund or have taxes taken out of their paycheck are in luck.
This credit currently covers 30 percent of a photovoltaic installation. This equates to thousands of dollars that are saved. This credit, however, is phasing out.
In 2020 this credit will decrease to 26 percent. During 2021 homeowners will get 22 percent. By 2022, this credit will decrease to 10 percent. It will then end for residential installations.
Texas doesn’t have a state tax credit, but they do offer a solar property tax exemption. All you have to do is fill out form 50-123 after you have solar installed.
The other incentive that makes solar worth the investment are utility rebates. Not all utilities offer solar rebates, so you will have to make sure yours is one of them.
The Most Important Factor To Consider: Your Utility
When looking at solar, your utility plays the largest role. This is especially true in Texas, because of deregulation and state solar policy.
Texas doesn’t have a specified solar carve-out in its renewable portfolio standard. On top of this, their renewable portfolio standard is voluntary. This means Texas utilities don’t have to offer a beneficial interconnection policy.
Local Utility Solar Policy Impact on Solar Savings
Solar companies determine the size of your array from a year of energy usage. Solar, however, can’t store extra energy produced during peak sun hours for later use. This becomes a problem when you want to use extra energy that wasn’t used during the day, or the month, before.
Companies like Go Solar Group offer battery and other solar backup options. The problem is that obtaining enough backup for your whole home is expensive.
It is for this reason that most stay connected to the grid when they purchase solar. This means your solar savings are largely determined by your utility.
Utilities that offer solar rebates and energy credits for excess generation are ideal. This, however, isn’t an option for everyone.
Addressing Utility Terminology: How It A
When we take a closer look at utilities’ solar generation policies, lots of terms pop off of the page. Knowing what these terms mean will give you a better idea of whether your utility supports solar.
Utility Solar Rate Jargon
When talking about how much your utility is going to pay for your excess solar, they use certain terms. If you don’t know what these terms are referring to, it becomes jargon.
Avoided Cost Rate
The avoided cost rate is the amount it would have cost the utility to produce that unit of power. This rate is less than what you are paying them for the power you have pulled off the grid. This means that you have to produce more power than you use in a year to cover your utility bill.
Retail Generation Rate
The retail generation rate is the rate at which you, the customer, would have paid for the unit of energy. Energy purchased or credited at this rate will allow you to take full advantage of your solar array.
The retail rate is the same as the retail generation rate. Both of these rates match what their customers pay for the utility’s power.
Types of Metering: What They Are
Some types of metering are more beneficial to solar customers than others. The differences between common metering policies will help you determine a fair deal. It can also help you understand the difference in your utility bill and solar monitoring.
Net Metering and Its Terminology Uses
Net metering is the process of transferring excess generated energy onto the grid. Solar customers use their generated energy at no extra cost. They are then credited or paid for their excess generation.
This excess generation offsets either a portion of the customer’s utility usage or all of it. The term net metering is also used to refer to the solar customer’s excess generation.
What Gross Metering Is
Gross metering is when the generator puts all of its generated power onto the grid. Because all of their energy is calculated twice, they are given two different bills.
One bill pays or credits the customer for all their solar generation. The other bill charges them for all the energy they have consumed. This form of metering is often used for leased solar arrays or utility solar programs.
Tariff Also Known as Feed-In Tariff Metering
Tariff metering is a predetermined contract that the generator and utility agree upon. This is often a 15 to 20-year contract with preset rates above retail and a set digression over time.
Virtual Net Metering
Virtual net metering is when several customers are connected to one generation meter. This generation method enables homeowners and renters to use community solar. Often utility-sponsored community solar programs charge customers more for solar generation.
Cooperatives, Municipal and Investor-owned: Know the Difference
In Texas, the type of utility you have can make a huge difference. The utility in your area determines whether you have regulated or deregulated electricity.
Cooperative utilities, also known as co-ops, are volunteer ran utilities. Co-ops are not required to enter the deregulated market. Because cooperatives have the people’s interest at heart, they often offer incentives.
Municipal utilities are owned by the city. These utilities also don’t have to enter into the deregulated market. Municipal utilities often have incentives.
Investor-owned utilities are privately owned. These utilities are required to enter Texas’ deregulated market. Some of these have a favorable solar metering policy in place.
Units of Power: Watts, kW, kWh
Every power bill takes into account how much energy you use so they can accurately charge you for it. Most electric bills measure electricity in kWh. To break this down we will go to the smallest unit of measurement.
Everything comes down to watts. There are 1,000 watts of electricity in 1 kW of energy. One kWh is the number of kWs used in an hour.
Now that you have some utility terms under your belt, you can determine if your utility is a good fit for solar.
Texas Utility Companies: Greater San Antonio Area
Although CPS serves most of San Antonio, the surrounding counties have different utilities. Where you live in the greater San Antonio area impacts whether solar is worth it.
Solar in Baxter County: The H
eart of San Antonio
Baxter County is in the heart of San Antonio. Often, when people talk about San Antonio, they are talking about Baxter County. Most that live in Baxter County have CPS Energy as their utility.
CPS Energy pays its customers the avoided cost rate for their excess generation. On top of this, CPS also gives a solar rebate. Qualified commercial and residential customers can receive up to $3,000.
The first $9 million of funding pays $2,500 per project and an extra $500 for using local panels. The next $5 million of funding pays $1,500 per project and an extra $500 for installing local panels. As of February 20th, 2019, only $2 million of the $14 million was allocated.
This rebate is capped at 50 percent of the project. If you are installing a system that would have cost less than $6,000 you will get up to half of the project cost instead. Installations that use non-local installers get 75 percent of the rebate.
Guadalupe County: GVEC
Guadalupe touches the northeast corner of Baxter County. The cooperative GVEC is the service provider for most of Guadalupe County.
GVEC provides its customers with a $0.75 per watt rebate. They also pay for excess generation at the current GVEC renewable energy rate.
Wilson and Atascosa County
Wilson and Atascosa have several different utilities. Unfortunately, they don’t all offer solar interconnection. Of their utilities, only FELPS and Karnes Electric Cooperative will credit the avoided cost rate.
Ambit Energy only does solar through their partner, Sunrun. AEP Texas has a solar generation application. They, however, don’t have anything on their website about paying for excess power.
Medina and Bandera County
Although there are several utilities in these counties, only Medina Electric Cooperative, Bandera Electric Cooperative and CPS have solar metering programs. Medina Electric customers pay the avoided cost rate for their net generation. Bandera Electric purchases customer power at the wholesale generation rate.
Centerpoint Energy has a solar generation application. The problem is that there isn’t anything online about payments for excess generation.
All three electric providers in Kendall County have solar generation programs in place. These utilities include CPS, Bandera Electric and Pedernales Electric.
Pedernales credits solar customers 100 percent of the retail rate until the bill is zero. If you produce more than you used, they credit the net power at their fuel cost with no capacity component. In 2018 this was $0.0465 per kWh.
Both Pedernales Electric and New Braunfels Utility serve Comal County. Both of these utilities have solar metering programs in place.
New Braunfels Utility matches your excess generation with the energy purchased from NBU. They won’t, however, pay for any unused generation. The good news is that they have a solar rebate.
NBU will rebate up to $0.50 per watt of installed solar. This rebate has a max of $3,000. This means that qualified systems over 6,000 watts or 6 kW will receive a $3,000 rebate.