Here’s why many Texans and towns in Texas, like Austin, rely on solar power

AUSTIN (KXAN) — More Texans are turning to solar power as prices drop and historic storms become more frequent. As part of Earth Week, we wanted to take a closer look at the trend to understand what’s going on.

When you hear talk of climate change and greenhouse gas emissions fueling global warming, the first things that come to mind may be pollution from factories and cars. But according to the US Environmental Protection Agency, 25% of greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity generation.

Transportation and electricity generation are the main sources of greenhouse gas emissions

While 20% of our electricity in the United States is generated by clean, renewable sources like wind and solar power, 60% of it comes from burning fossil fuels that contribute to global warming.

A transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy – even if only in the electricity generation section – would reduce a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States.

Switch to solar energy

Steven Apodaca has lived in his south Austin neighborhood for three and a half years. He and his wife have solar panels on their roof.

“My electric bill, if you can believe it, was $11 last month,” Apodaca said.

And even in hot weather, it saves a lot of money. “During the months of June, July and August, I paid nothing,” Apodaca said.

Steven’s community was built with solar panels on each house, so the cost of the panels was built into the purchase price of the house. But the costs for those who add them to their roofs are coming down.

Jonathan Baldridge is an energy consultant with Freedom Solar, a Texas-based company that recently installed solar panels at the headquarters of the University of Texas, Whole Foods and Austin Energy.

“Ten or twelve years ago, solar power was a luxury for a lot of people,” Baldridge said. “It was for wealthy people. Several years later, we have seen solar power prices continue to drop quite dramatically. »

And while prices have stabilized due to pandemic-related supply chain issues, Baldridge says the time it takes to recoup your investment in solar panels with the savings on your electric bill is much less than that. that he was before.

“I would say on average the payback is 10 to 12 years,” Baldridge said.

Why Texans’ Solar Demand Has Grown

And after the deadly winter storm of February 2021 strained the ERCOT network to the point of collapse, Jonathan and his company saw a significant increase in residential solar demand.

“Shortly after the storm, they were setting up 150 to 200 dates a day,” Baldridge said. “Personally, we were tough for four days. I live in South Austin. I have a five-year-old and a two-year-old, and it was really cold.

While adding grid-tied solar panels to your home won’t keep your power going during a utility-wide load shedding event like we saw in February 2021, and utility companies don’t hold Considering the concentration of residential solar power when deciding which areas to shut down, Baldridge says up to 40% of their customers are now installing solar battery backup systems for their homes.

Baldridge and his family added a Tesla Powerwall after the winter storm, which will remain powered if there is another load shedding event.

Even if you choose not to add solar panels to your home, more of the energy you use from the power company comes from solar sources.

Austin Energy has expanded its Community Solar program with three large solar installations at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, the La Loma Community Solar Farm in East Austin and the downtown Palmer Array. These thousands of solar panels together produce 4.58 megawatts of renewable energy that feeds into the local grid.

Austin gets more solar power options

The Austin Business Journal reports that California-based Chem-Energy Corp. is building a pair of solar and battery facilities near Kyle that will create 400 jobs and produce 1,000 megawatts of solar power over the next decade.

The Austin Business Journal reports that the project will create 400 jobs in Caldwell and Hays counties and represents an investment of $1 billion; comparable to Tesla’s $1.1 billion facility near Austin airport.

Chem-Energy Corp. did not respond to our requests for comment.

A 2020 report from the International Energy Agency found that for projects with high-quality resources and low funding due to government incentives, solar power is now the most popular source of electricity. cheapest in history.

“I think we’re rapidly destroying this planet,” Baldridge said. “And having two little ones makes a lot of sense to leave them a better world behind.”

“It’s gratifying to know that I’m a good steward of our resources,” Apodaca said.

So why would you consider going solar?

  • Lower electricity bills
  • Fewer constraints on the electrical network
  • Satisfaction that comes from doing your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the United States

Austin Energy is currently offering a $2,500 rebate to customers who install residential solar power.

According to Texas Property Code Section 202.010, your homeowners association can only prevent you from installing solar for the following reasons:

  • Whether solar-powered devices are illegal or violate public health and safety
  • If they are located on a common property inside the subdivision
  • If they extend higher than the roof line, don’t conform to the pitch of the roof, or aren’t parallel to the roof line
  • If they are ground mounted and extend above the owner’s fence
  • If installed in a manner that voids warranties
  • If they have an item that is not in a silver, bronze or black tone
  • If installed without prior HOA approval

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