FAQs for San Antonio Solar
San Antonio is a unique city in the solar landscape of Texas. The fact that this city has many cooperatives that service San Antonio and the surrounding areas means that solar is different in this city than in other places in Texas. To navigate the terrain, let’s look at some common San Antonio solar questions and learn how the city’s role in residential solar impacts citizens in search of renewable energy solutions.
Common San Antonio Solar Questions:
- How Are Utility Options in San Antonio Different?
- Can You Choose a Different Utility Provider in San Antonio?
- Why Doesn’t Every Utility Allow Solar?
- What is the Relevance of Solar Panel Metering To San Antonio Citizens?
- What Renewable Energy Standards and Incentives Does San Antonio Have?
- Who Can Qualify for Solar in San Antonio Texas?
- What Solar Options Are Available in the San Antonio Market?
- How Does San Antonio Texas Weather Effect Solar Panels?
- Do Texas Solar Homes Have a Higher Resale Value?
- How Can Texans Maximize Their Solar Savings?
- What Impact Does Solar Panel Have on the Environment?
- What Should Customers Look For in a San Antonio Solar Installer?
How Are Utility Options in San Antonio Different?
Since 2002, Texas has started implementing deregulation in the electric market. This means that most Texans can choose their utility provider. However, Texas deregulation excludes municipals and cooperatives.
Areas like San Antonio are mostly controlled by cooperatives and municipalities, which means that the ability for customers to choose their electric provider is limited. For those that live in these areas, it is important to know how deregulation impacts them.
Texas Cooperatives and Deregulation
If a homeowner within a co-op wants to enter the deregulated market, they need to make changes in the co-op. Customers serviced by the co-op can write their elected leaders to elicit change within the cooperative. If, however, after four years, no one opts for a different utility, the decision for the cooperative to deregulate 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 deregulated electricity market, the decision is permanent.
RTO Role in Texas Deregulation
An RTO is a regional transmission organization. They coordinate and manage the electrical grid that multiple utilities use.
For deregulation to work, customers need to be on the same grid system. Three RTOs manage the power grid in Texas.
Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT)
The first is the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT), which regulates 85 percent of the power in Texas. After Senate Bill 7 passed, ERCOT launched its competitive retail electric market. Utilities not in the ERCOT boundaries, or those that would struggle to compete, are not included in deregulation.
Southwest Power Pool (SPP)
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.
Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO)
The third RTO in Texas is the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). MISO’s electric region splashes into the east side of Texas.
Can You Choose a Different Utility Provider in San Antonio?
Because San Antonio has a municipal utility, they are exempt from deregulation. As of 2020, San Antonio’s utility, CPS Energy, has not entered the competitive market.
As a result, individuals that live in their boundaries do not have different utility provider choices. They do, however, still have the option to add solar to their homes.
Cooperatives often have better net metering incentives for their customers.
Why Doesn’t Every Utility Allow Solar?
Texas ensures that customers have the right to a grid connection, which allows solar customers to access power when the sun is down. However, because the majority of Texas has deregulated electricity, each provider has different net metering policies. Some utilities don’t pay for excess solar power, which can make using solar an expensive option.
Solar for CPS Customers
CPS has a solar generation program available. To qualify for it, customers need to use one of their approved installers. Installers also need to follow their installation requirements.
The first requirement is that applicants are CPS customers or own property that has, or will have, a CPS account. Qualified solar arrays also need to be installed on a permanent structure.
The interested party needs to either own the system or have permission from the owner to get paid for excess solar generation. And, lastly, applicants need to have at least 1 kilowatt (kW) of alternating current installed, which is equivalent to 1,000 watts of energy.
What is the Relevance of Solar Panel Metering To San Antonio Citizens?
Solar metering is a way for utilities to measure the bidirectional flow of energy in a solar equipped home. Customers with net metering receive an assessment of their net electricity at the end of the month.
Solar customers have the same rate as other customers for the power pulled off the grid. However, excess solar power often has a lower purchase rate.
While net metering is the most common solar metering type, it isn’t the only way customers are billed.
Feed-In Tariff Metering
Both feed-in tariff (FIT) and net-metering allow solar customers to receive compensation. However, with a FIT, the utility agrees to pay the solar customer for all the energy their system produces over a set period, 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 the home uses throughout the day, which allows utilities to charge or pay customers different rates based on their time of use or generation.
Value of Solar Tariff
Value of Solar Tariff (VOST) uses an algorithm to find the value of each watt of solar. The utility then pays this rate to the solar customer for their excess energy.
Austin Texas municipal utility uses the VOST system. They use avoided fuel costs, 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 the extra electricity that a solar system produces during the day. If a customer has a solar backup system, they can store this excess electricity for later use.
Powering the home with excess energy is possible, but it can be expensive. Most solar customers find it more economical to exchange their excess generation and purchase battery backup for emergency proposes.
Net Metering in San Antonio
In San Antonio, CPS Energy has a net metering policy in place for its solar generation customers. The program credits solar customers for their excess electricity at the avoided cost rate.
GVEC, or Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative, services some of the San Antonio area. All individuals that live in the GVEC service area can only get their electricity from GVEC.
GVEC customers who are 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?
Seeing residential solar on a home is slowly becoming a common occurrence. This influx of residential solar installations is due to favorable incentives.
Texas is on the cusp of becoming a state that incentivizes green energy production above all else, despite its illustrious and profitable history in the world of oil, natural gas, and coal-based power. Due to incentives, Texas wind production in 2019 covered 20% of the state’s energy needs. While solar power composes a significantly smaller slice of the state’s energy portfolio, projections predict that solar will increase by 30 times.
In San Antonio, solar panels have a couple of incentives that make it a favorable option for homeowners. These incentives include a renewable energy standard and government incentives.
Texas Renewable Portfolio Standard
In 1999 Texas created a renewable generation requirement of 5,880 megawatts by 2015. The standard then reset to a voluntary 10,000 megawatts by 2025.
In 2017 an annual report on the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) program stated that Texas renewable megawatt capacity increased to 26, 332.3. Although Texas has reached its goal two times over, Texas has not set a new standard.
A megawatt (MW) is 1,000,000 watts of electric current. One megawatt equals 1,000 kilowatts. Megawatts 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 receive double RECs.
CPS Energy’s Renewable Energy Standard
Although Texas doesn’t have a current Renewable Energy Standard, utilities are still adding renewable energy. CPS Energy has a goal to reach 80 percent non-carbon-emitting energy by 2040. In the summer of 2019, the CPS proposed adding 300 to 900 megawatts of utility-generated and third-party-owned solar.
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 26 percent of an array. This credit is a dollar for dollar credit, which means that you will get the full amount.
It is, however, a credit, so customers can only use is to decrease the amount of federal taxes they owe. If the customer doesn’t owe taxes, they can’t take advantage of this credit.
Texas Solar Property Exemption
Solar panels increase home value. Increased value is great for homeowners that want to sell or refinance their home. However, increased value also increases 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 solar array.
What CPS Solar Incentives
CPS will pay its qualifying customers $2,500 for installing residential solar. If customers use local solar panels, they can receive $500 more.
GVEC Solar Incentives
Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative has incentives in place for PV systems. Customers can receive up to $0.75 for every watt of electricity their system can produce.
The solar customer needs to own the system, use an approved installer and have a warranty on the solar array. If the customer removes their solar panels less than five years after installed, the incentive will reduce, and the customer will receive a bill for a portion of the rebate.
Who Can Qualify for Solar in San Antonio Texas?
Owning the Home
Owning the home is very important to the process of installing a solar array. If a renter is interested in residential solar, the homeowner needs to permit the installation.
Trees Near Your Home
Everyone loves a tall tree on a sunny day. If the tree, however, is also shading the south pitch of the roof, it could mean trouble for installing solar panels. Solar panels need sun exposure, shading them will decrease the production of the array.
Space for a Solar Array
Every panel is a little different, Go Solar Group’s panels are about 65 inches by 39 inches, which is equal to 5 feet by 3 feet. The number of solar panels needed, among other things, depends on the amount of energy use in a year and the wattage of the solar panels.
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.
Those that have a credit score in the 700s or higher should qualify for any solar loan. However, credit scores in the high 600s also have a higher chance of qualifying.
Owing Taxes Is Important for Solar
Because of the federal solar tax credit, qualified parties can get up to 26 percent of their system covered, which is equivalent to thousands of dollars. Because it covers a large chunk of the cost, we do not recommend getting solar unless the potential customer can qualify for this tax credit.
Usage for a Solar Array
For both the customer and the solar company to benefit, homeowners need to use a certain amount of electricity in a year. The minimum usage for a solar array at Go Solar Group is 6,000 watts over a year, or an average of 500 watts a month.
Not every roof can support the weight of a photovoltaic system. When setting up a quote, the solar representative should ask about the roof type and age.
Before approved, someone should survey the 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 it will need replacing before the solar installation.
What Solar Options Are Available in the San Antonio Market?
Solar Installer Approved By CPS Energy
Because CPS is the municipal utility provider for most of San Antonio, it is the only option for San Antonio residents. As a result, it has control over which solar companies can do business in the San Antonio area. There is a growing list of CPS approved local and non-local solar installers.
Difference Between a Local and Outsourced Solar Installer
To support the local economy, CPS gives extra incentives to individuals that use locally sourced solar panels. Determining which company to use should be a decision of quality at the right price, which may mean that a non-local installer/solar panel is the better option. Multiple solar bids help potential customers find the best fit for them.
What Solar Options for GVEC Customers
As long as the solar array is less than 20 kW, GVEC customers can use any solar installer. The installation only needs approval by GVEC for net metering. After the solar installation approval, and post-installation inspection by GVEC, the 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. During these three months, it is muggy 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 panel production.
Average Texas Peak Sun Hours
In Texas, the average peak sun hours range from 4.5 to 8 hours a day. The national peak-sun-hours range between 0.5 and 8.5 hours a day. San Antonio typically has between 5 and 6 peak sun hours.
Shaded San Antonio Solar Panels
For many, the biggest problem is the trees next to their home. Having trees isn’t a problem — it is when these trees block prime real estate for solar panels.
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.
Microinverters monitor each solar panel instead of the collective array production, which prevents partially-shaded solar panels from detrimentally decreasing array production.
Cloud Coverage and Solar Panels
When cloud coverage blocks the sun, some rays still get through. There just isn’t as much power from the solar panels. Although there are typically only two months in Texas with clear skies, the chance for extreme cloud coverage is not high.
The cloudiest day of the year in San Antonio experiences extreme cloud coverage less than 50 percent of the time. The peak sun hours in Texas show that even though there is cloud coverage, a home can still receive good sun exposure.
Moonlight’s Effect on Solar Panels
Although the moon does reflect solar rays, the wavelengths are not as strong. Solar panels collect these wavelengths from the moon. However, they do not produce enough electron movement to generate an electric current. As of yet, lunar absorption isn’t a reality.
Do Texas Solar Homes Have a Higher Resale Value?
It is hard to put a value on homes because there are so many variables that go into it. When an appraiser evaluates a home, they take into account the square footage, amenities, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, and the functionality of the floor plan.
Appraisers compare these factors to similar homes on the market and in the area. Features that aren’t on other homes which are currently on the market may not be accurately appraised.
The Value of Solar
Value per watt is the best metric for estimating the value of solar. Unfortunately, many lenders require appraisers to use the sales comparison approach.
However, in the end, what the buyer feels the solar 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.
How Can Texans Maximize Their Solar Savings?
While solar saves customers money on their current power bill, they can optimize their savings by making a couple of changes. The best way to utilize San Antonio solar panels is to do as many high-energy activities as possible when the sun is shining. However, investing in energy-saving upgrades also make a huge difference.
Post-Solar Habits That Maximize Savings
Many don’t think twice about leaving the lights on or doing the laundry after work, but these activities all cost energy. While conserving energy is a good idea, regardless, it is even more beneficial for solar homeowners.
High-Energy Activities Best Done When the Sun Is Shinning
Some high-energy activities include regular chores, like dishes and laundry. Completing these chores during the day allows the solar array to cover these appliances’ energy needs.
One way to do these chores during the day is to set the delay timer on the appliances. If the appliance doesn’t have a delay timer, homeowners can turn them on during lunch breaks.
Power-Hungry Energy Habits To Reconsider
There are a few energy-conscious habits to consider. Some of these include turning the light off when leaving a room, taking shorter showers and unplugging electronics after using them. Homeowners can also deselect the dry heating button on the dishwasher, use cold water more frequently, add a dry towel to each dryer load, and turn the air conditioner off or down when gone.
Increasing Solar Savings With Energy Efficient Appliance Upgrades
When old appliances die, they need a replacement. Making sure that the new washer, dryer, microwave or air conditioner conserves electricity, helps make solar go further.
Energy-Conserving Home Upgrades
There are a plethora of ways to increase the efficiency of a home. The first step, however, is to have an energy audit, so the homeowner can decide which home upgrades to do. Some of the common energy upgrades include sealing holes, lighting and thermostats.
Conserving Solar Power by Keeping Air In
Making sure that a home is well sealed and insulated will decrease the electricity consumption significantly. Another way to help keep the air in the home stable is to install energy-efficient windows or low-emissivity coating.
Changing light fixtures will also help people save energy. LED bulbs are more efficient and last longer than the average incandescent or CFL bulb.
Thermostats and Solar in San Antonio
Upgrading a thermostat is another great way to conserve energy. A smart thermostat offers greater control over heating and cooling energy consumption. Some San Antonio utilities, like CPS, have smart-thermostat rebates.
What Impact Does Solar Panel Have on the Environment?
Impact of Solar Manufacturing
San Antonio solar panels create energy from the sun, which is extremely clean. However, the photovoltaic manufacturing process is not clean.
While a valid concern for many, it may not be as bad as other processes. The US Department of Energy found that solar panels take between one to four years of use to pay back the pollution emitted during the manufacturing process.
Solar customers avoid emitting sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon dioxide for 25 plus years. This environmental payback increases when combined with solar recycling.
PV Recycling Options
Recycling solar panels is essential to prolonging the life of our planet. Unfortunately, unlike Europe, the United States does not have mandatory solar panel recycling programs. We do, however, have recycling options, and as time goes on, these options will continue to improve.
What Should Customers Look For in a San Antonio Solar Installer?
When looking for a quality solar installer, make sure that they are NABCEP certified. NABCEP installers follow solar safety regulations and hire knowledgeable employees.
Good Solar Company Reviews
Good reviews are also a sign that the solar installer of choice is a good one. Taking a look at the Better Business Bureau gives an idea of how the business is doing.
Red Flags To Look Out For in Texas Solar Panel Companies
Determining red flags helps interested parties choose a quality solar installer. Here are a couple of red flags to keep in mind.
Outsourced Solar Installations
One possible red flag is if the company outsources labor. While contracted work isn’t inherently bad, it could cause complications later because the solar contractor often guarantees the work instead of the solar company. If the solar company decided on outsources installs, figure out who they use and determine the quality of past work.
Unresolved Customer Complaints
Another red flag is multiple unresolved customer complaints. No one is perfect — mistakes happen. However, if the company has made no effort to resolve or address issues, prepare for a rocky ride.