San Antonio is a unique city in the solar landscape of Texas. Learn how the city’s role in solar affects you as a citizen in search of renewable energy solutions.
Utility Options in Texas
Since 2002 Texas has started implementing deregulation in the electric market. This means that most Texans can now choose their utility provider. As of 2018 Texas dis-includes municipal utilities, HOAs (co-ops), and utilities outside of ERCOT. Customers with one of these organizations can not choose their electric provider.
Texas HOAs (CO-OP) and Deregulation
Not all HOA’s require their residents to get electricity from a certain utility. If you want to enter the deregulated market you need to make changes in your HOA. You can write to your HOA and elect leaders that are willing to make a change. If after 4 years no one changes their utility the decision for an HOA deregulation can reverse.
Texas Municipal Utility Deregulation
If a municipal can compete the governing body may decide to enter the deregulated market. Once a municipal utility has decided to enter the market the decision is permanent.
RTO’s Role in Deregulation
The federal energy regulatory commission approves RTO’s. They coordinate and manage the electrical grid that multiple utilities operate under. There are three RTOs that cover Texas. The first is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). They are a non-profit that regulates 85 percent of the power in Texas.
ERCOT launched their competitive retail electric market after the Senate Bill 7 passed. The second RTO in Texas is the Southwest Power Pool (SPP). They manage the grid on the panhandle and portions of east Texas. Southwestern Public Service and EAP West are electric regions of SPP that service Texans. The third RTO in Texas is Midcontinent (MISO). Their electric region, Entergy, splashes into the east side of Texas.
In order for deregulation to work, you need customers to be on the same grid system. Individuals that don’t live in the ERCOT boundaries may not have a utility equipped to compete. Utilities not in the ERCOT boundaries, or that are but would struggle to compete, are not included in deregulation.
Can You Choose a Different Utility Provider in San Antonio?
Because San Antonio has a municipal utility they are exempt from deregulation. As of 2018 San Antonio’s utility, CPS Energy, has not decided to enter into the competitive market.
Not Every Utility Allows Solar
Texas ensures that you have the right to grid connection. This allows solar customers to get power when the sun isn’t out. Because the majority of Texas has deregulated electricity each provider has different policies. They aren’t forced to have solar metering. There are some utilities that don’t pay their solar customers for their extra solar power. This can make using solar an expensive option.
Solar for CPS Customers
CPS has a solar generation program available. In order to qualify for it, you need to use one of their approved installers. You also need to follow their installation requirements. Their first requirement is that you are a CPS customer or own property that has or will have a CPS account. CPS also mandates that you must install your solar array on a permanent structure. You need to either own the system or have permission from the owner to get paid for your extra solar generation. And lastly, you need to have at least 1 kilowatt (kW) of alternating current installed. This is equivalent to 1,000 watts of energy.
What are Solar Panels Net Metering and Its Relevance to San Antonio Citizens?
What is Net Metering? Net metering is a way for utilities to measure the bi-directional flow of energy in a solar equipped home. When you have net-metering you receive an assessment of your net electricity at the end of the month. You get charged the same rate as other customers for the power you take. However, the power you give is often purchased at a lower rate.
The Difference Between Net Metering And Feed-In Tariff Metering
Both feed-in tariff (FIT) and net-metering allow solar customers to receive compensation. In a FIT the Utility agrees to pay the solar customer for all the energy their system produces over a period of time. This is typically between 12 to 15 years. These payments offset the cost of solar. Although there are some emerging FIT programs in the US Europe uses this system more often.
Time of Use Metering
Time of use metering requires the install of a smart meter. These meters measure how much electricity is being used throughout the day. This allows utilities to charge/pay customers different rates based on their time of use/ generation.
Value of Solar Tariff
A Value of Solar Tariff (VOST) replaces net metering. Those that use this tariff use an algorithm to find what the value of each watt of solar is. The utility then pays this rate to the solar customer for their excess energy. This rate is periodically reevaluated.
Austin Texas municipal utility uses the VOST system. They use avoided fuel, new power generation costs, transmission and distribution expenses, line loss, fuel price hedge value, and environmental benefits to calculate the value of each watt of solar.
Excess generation is extra electricity that your solar system produces during the day. If you have a solar backup system you can store this excess electricity for later use. Powering your entire home with this excess energy is possible, but can be expensive. Most solar customers find it more economical to exchange their excess generation.
Net Metering In San Antonio
In San Antonio, CPS Energy has a net metering policy in place for their solar generation customers. Their program credits excess electricity at the avoided cost rate.
Avoided Cost Rate
The avoided cost rate is the amount of estimated savings from not having to produce your power. This amount is less than the rate their customers pay for electricity.
Right next to San Antonio is Gonzales. GVEC or Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative services this area. All individuals that live in the GVEC service area can only get their electricity from GVEC.
GVEC allows their customers to get solar if they choose. Customers interested in solar have two options. They can either opt into the co-op’s community solar program or have their array metered by GVEC. Customers get paid for their excess generation at GVEC’s current renewable energy rate.
What Renewable Energy Standards and Incentives Does San Antonio Have?
Texas is on the cusp of becoming a state that truly incentivizes green energy production above all else, despite its illustrious and profitable history in the world of oil, natural gas, and coal-based power.
Renewable Energy Standard
A renewable energy standard is a goal made for renewable energy generation. Most states have renewable energy standards. Periodically new standards are set. Often utilities get penalized if they don’t reach the projected goal for that year. This gives utilities an incentive to pay their renewable generation customers.
Texas’s Renewable Portfolio Standard
In 1999 Texas created a renewable generation requirement of 5,880 megawatts by 2015. This standard was reset to 10,000 megawatts by 2025.
The 2017 annual report on the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) program stated that Texas renewable megawatt capacity increased to 26, 332.3. Although Texas has doubled its goal a new one has not been implemented.
Until 2019 the Texas Public Utility Commission (PUCT) will award 1 REC for every Megawatt of renewable energy they claim. Retail entities that don’t meet the state standards are fined $50 per Megawatt.
A megawatt (MW) is 1,000,000 watts of electric current. One megawatt is equal to 1,000 kilowatts. Megawatts are used to measure large-scale electric generation.
Solar Carve Out
Solar carve out is the amount of solar generation included in a renewable standard. Texas does not have a mandatory solar carve out. It does, however, have a voluntary 500 MW non-wind renewable generation carve out. All non-wind renewable generations get double RECs.
CPS Energy’s Renewable Energy Standard
CPS Energy has a goal to reach 20 percent of their electrical peak demand with renewable energy by 2020. This is equal to 1,500 Megawatts. In 2015 CPS had 1,193 MW with an agreement in place to develop another 300 MW.
Texas and San Antonio Solar Incentives
Federal Solar Tax Credit
The federal tax credit, also known as the investment tax credit (ITC), covers up to 30 percent of your array. This credit is a dollar for dollar credit which means that you will get the full amount.
It is, however, a credit and so you will only be able to use is to decrease the amount of federal taxes you owe. If you do not owe taxes you can not take advantage of this credit.
Texas Solar Property Exemption
When you purchase solar it increases the value of your home. This is great when you go to sell your home or refinance it, but can suck when it is time to pay property taxes.
Thankfully, Texas understands how burdensome this can be. Texans can get a 100 percent property tax exemption for the added value of their array.
What CPS Solar Incentives
CPS will pay their qualifying customers up to 50 percent of the cost of their array. If you use a local solar installer you can get $0.60 per watt of alternating current (AC) your system can produce.
You can get another $0.10 per watt of AC if you use locally made inverters and panels for your install. If you choose to use an approved non-local installer then your incentive decreases from $0.60 to a max of $0.45 per watt of AC.
GVEC Solar Incentives
Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative has incentives in place for PV systems. With the solar arrays, you are able to get $0.75 for every watt of electricity your system can produce. To acquire this rebate you need to be a GVEC member.
The solar customer needs to own the system, use an approved installer, and have it warrantied. If you decide to remove your system in less than five years you will get penalized. You will receive a bill for a portion of the rebate if removed early.
Who Can Qualify for Solar in San Antonio Texas?
Need To Own Your Home
Owning your home is very important to the process of installing a solar array. If you don’t own your home the owner needs to give permission for the installation. The array will be going on their property and so they need to be on board.
Trees Near Your Home
Everyone loves a good tall tree to shade you on a sunny day. If this tree is also shading the south pitch of your roof, however, you could be in trouble. Solar panels need sun exposure, shading them will decrease your production.
Space For A Solar Array
Every panel is a little different, Go Solar Group’s panels are about 65 inches by 39 inches. This is equal to 5 feet by 3 feet. How many panels you will need for your home depends on the amount of energy you use in a year and the wattage of the panel.
Credit For Solar
For many, the price of solar is not something they can pay for in one lump sum. Solar companies are aware of this. As a result, they have created relationships with financing companies they trust.
If you have a credit score that is in the 700’s or higher you should qualify for any solar loan. If, however, you have a credit score that is in the high 600s it is worth looking into. If you aren’t sure if your credit will qualify you can call and find out.
Owing Taxes is Important for Solar
Because of the federal solar tax credit, you can get up to 30 percent of your system covered. This is equivalent to thousands of dollars. People that don’t owe taxes, unfortunately, can’t qualify for this incentive. Because it is such a big chunk of the cost we don’t recommend getting solar unless you can qualify for this tax credit.
Usage For a Solar System
In order for both you and the solar company to benefit you need to use a certain amount of electricity in a year. Solar companies would cease to exist if they couldn’t afford to pay their expenditures. Go Solar Group’s minimum usage for a solar array is 6,000 watts over a year or an average of 500 watts a month.
Not every roof is able to support the weight of a photovoltaic system. When you go to set up a quote the solar representative should ask your roof type and how old it is.
Before your system approval, someone should come and survey your home to make sure it is safe to do an install. Go Solar Group can install on most roof types. However, the age of the roof might mean that you will need to get it replaced before you can get solar.
What Solar Options are Available in the San Antonio Market?
Solar Installer Approved By CPS Energy
Because CPS is the municipal utility provider for certain areas in San Antonio they are the only option for San Antonio residents. This means that they control which solar companies can and can’t do business in the San Antonio area.
There are 64 CPS approved solar installers as of July 2018. Of these installers only 15 of them are non-local.
Difference Between a Local and Outsourced Solar Installer
In an effort to support the local solar industry, CPS gives extra incentives to individuals that use local installers. There is no proof that a local installer is any better than a non-local one so you will have to make that call for yourself. Getting multiple solar bids will help you get the best price for your system.
What Solar Options for GVEC Customers
As long as your solar array is less than 20 kW then you can use any solar installer. All you need to do is get the installation approved by GVEC for net metering. After your solar installation gets approved and inspected by GVEC your system is good to go.
How Does San Antonio Texas Weather Effect Solar Panels?
Texas Humidity and Solar Panels
Areas with high humidity should expect the total power output of their array to decrease by 10 to 20 percent. In San Antonio, only three months of the year have muggy conditions less than 10 percent of the time.
Importance of Peak Sun Hours
Peak sun hours are the average hours in a day that the sun gives off the most radiation. Having more peak sun hours is vital to high solar production.
Average Texas Peak Sun Hours
In Texas, the average peak sun hours range from 8 to 4.5 hours a day. The national peak sun hours range between 8.5 and 0.5 hours a day. San Antonio doesn’t have as many peak sun hours as the western side of Texas, but they still have between 5 and 6 hours.
Cloud Coverage and Solar Panels
When you block the sun with cloud coverage some rays still get through. You just don’t get as much power from your panels. Although, there are only two months in Texas with clear skies the chance for extreme cloud coverage isn’t huge.
The cloudiest day of the year in San Antonio experiences extreme cloud coverage less than 50% of the time. The peak sun hours in Texas show that even though there is cloud coverage you can still get good sun exposure.
Moonlight’s Effect on Solar Panels
Although it is true that the moon does reflect rays from the sun, these rays aren’t as strong. Panels will collect these wavelengths from the moon. But, they don’t produce enough electron movement to create a current. So, although the thought of lunar panels is great they aren’t a reality yet.
Shaded San Antonio Solar Panels
Can you have trees and solar panels? Solar panels need to collect light wavelengths. Blocking the sun hinders panels from collecting these wavelengths. For many, the biggest problem is their trees next to their home. If you have trees that don’t shade the area of your panel installation you don’t need to worry about trimming them.
Most solar installations use string inverters. With a string inverter, any shading will cause the whole system to function at a lower level. Although string inverters do have their benefits this is one of their downfalls.
Micro-inverters go off each individual panel instead of the collective panel production. This allows for partial shading of panels.
Shading panels with micro-inverters will still decrease your system production. No matter what inverter you use you can’t disregard all shading issues.
Do Texas Solar Homes Have a Resale Value?
Increase The Value Of My San Antonio, Texas Home
It is hard to put a value on your home because there are so many variables that go into it. When an appraiser evaluates your home they take into account the square footage, amenities, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the functionality of the floor plan.
These factors are then compared to homes in the area that are similar to it on the market. If you have features that other homes on the market don’t have they may not be accurately appraised. Value per watt is the best metric for estimating the value of solar. Unfortunately, many lenders require appraisers to use the sales comparison approach.
In the end, what the buyer feels your panels are worth will make or break the sale. In 2016 the Appraisal Journal found that most arrays increase home value by $3.78 a watt.
Maximize My Solar Savings
If all you did was get solar you would save money. If you want to optimize your solar savings, however, you should consider a couple of changes. The best way to utilize your solar array is to do as many high energy activities as possible when the sun is shining.
Some of these activities include running the dishwasher and laundry machines. If you have a delay timer on your appliances you can set them to turn on in the middle of the day. If you don’t have a delay timer you can turn on these appliances during your lunch break.
Water fountains and pool/hot tub pumps also require quite a bit of energy. If you want to lower your water pump energy consumption consider investing in a couple items.
A pool timer, a correctly sized pump, and an energy efficient motor will save you hundreds in electricity bills. You need to circulate your water, but when and how you do it can change how much you are paying.
Upgrades That Coincide with Solar Panels in San Antonio
There are certain upgrades that will save you money on your power bill. HVAC is the system that gives you control over the heating and cooling of your home. Make sure you replace your old system with new energy efficient equipment. If you want even greater control over your heating and cooling you can install a smart thermostat.
Washing machines, faucets, fridges, and microwaves all use energy. Getting appliances that are energy efficient when your old ones die out will allow you to save more in the long run.
Making sure that your home is well sealed and insulated will decrease your power bill. You can also install energy efficient windows or add low emissivity coating. This will help your home keep its temperature.
Changing your light fixtures will also help you save more. Viribright found that LED bulbs are more efficient. They also last longer than the average incandescent or CFL bulb.
You can make cost-effective changes to improve your energy bill as well. You can turn the light off when you aren’t using them or take shorter showers. One thing you can do to save energy is to unplug electronics when you aren’t using them. Although you may have hit that power button electricity is still flowing as long as it’s plugged in.
You can deselect the dry heating button on your dishwasher. Or use cold water more frequently and add a dry towel to each load you put in the dryer. When you leave for long trips you can turn off the air conditioner. You can also change the thermostat to an energy conserving temperature while you are out for the day.
What Impact do Solar Panels Have on the Environmental?
Impact of Solar Manufacturing
When you use your solar panels you are using clean energy that isn’t harming the environment. However, dangerous chemicals get emitted as a result of photovoltaic manufacturing. This is a concern for many, but it may not be as bad as it has been made to seem.
The US Department of Energy found that solar panels take between 1 to 4 years of use to payback the pollution that was emitted during the manufacturing process. Solar customers avoid emitting sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide for 25 plus years.
PV Recycling Options
Recycling your panels is essential to prolonging the life of our planet. Unfortunately, the united states don’t have mandatory panel recycling like Europe. We do, however, have recycling options and as time goes on we will continue to improve.
What to Look for in a San Antonio Solar Installer?
When looking for a quality solar installer you will want to make sure that they are NABCEP certified. NABCEP Installers follow solar safety regulations and hire knowledgeable employees. Good customer reviews is also a sign that the installer of choice is a good one. Taking a look at the Better Business Bureau will give you an idea of how that business is doing.
Red Flags to Avoid
One red flag is if the solar installer outsources its labor. When a solar company doesn’t use their own installation crew they can’t guarantee the work. The quality and timeliness of work may vary from one installation to the next.
Another major red flag is if they have multiple unresolved customer service complaints. No one is perfect and mistakes happen. However, if no effort was made to resolve these solar issues be prepared for a rocky ride.
A Full-service Installer Vs. a Solar Contractor
A full-service solar installer takes care of all the details for you. After you decide that you want to get solar you shouldn’t have to worry about anything.
A solar contractor completes the installation of your panels. They can install repair and maintain a solar array. Contractors can be hired by different solar companies and typically don’t work on the same system more than once.
Unlike a solar contractor, full-service installers are there for the long haul. This means that after your panels get installed they continue to service your system. If you call because there is a problem they will take care of it without any hassle.
Full-service companies with their own install crew can get the job done quickly. In fact, full-service companies are four times faster than the average installation crew.
This is because they take out the middle-man. They do all the paperwork so that installations can get scheduled as fast as possible.