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Texas Fails to Keep Up With Solar Energy

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People are surprised to learn that Texas, a state renowned for sunshine, is lagging behind when it comes to installing solar panels. Nationwide, the installation of solar panels rose 75 percent in 2011 while simultaneously the equipment necessary to install panels fell drastically. Other sunny states like Arizona are making the most of this cost-effective solution and enjoying $10 energy bills. Why is Texas so far behind?

The Solar Energy Industries Association reports that in Texas, the use of solar power is the lowest in the nation when compared to other states that enjoy sunshine. In fact, Arizona uses 30 times more solar power than Texas’ measly 107.5 megawatts. The open land, sunshine and desire to save money are rampant in Texas, so what’s holding the Lone Star State back? It might be the love of wind power.

Wind is Cheap

Texas’ tempting energy credits program made develops dash to take advantage of it. However, wind is cheaper than solar panels, especially when the Legislature introduced the goal in 2005, so that’s where people put their money. Developers were so franatic that they left 2025 goals in the dust back in 2009, but then renewable credits were washed away during the recession. People didn’t need or want credits anymore, and a lot of developers were left with upside down wind farms.

Right when energy credits began to decrease in popularity, the cost of solar panels began to decline. Don’t be fooled by the low numbers of solar panel usage in Texas; their popularity has increased fourfold since 2011. However, it still has a long way to go and the solar farms in Texas don’t even come close to touching others in California.

Is It the Fault of Legislators?

Obviously, solar power is also an environmental player and Austin–known as the home for hipsters, liberals and environmentalists–points the finger at legislators for not giving Texans incentives to opt for solar power. Small business owners and homeowners can get a few rebates for going solar, but they sell out quickly and are difficult to come by. Generally speaking, it’s not very lucrative to tempt people into solar compared to other options for making money.

It’s no surprise that the influx of solar power is in Austin and San Antonio, where solar incentive programs are going strong. There’s an addiction aspect to solar power, and it spreads like a virus. Once a neighbor in one of these cities sees solar panels installed, they want it. Consider it keeping up with the Jones’s for the green set. The city of Denton offered Texans $15,000 to install solar panels, which covered about 75 percent of the entire process and promised to pay itself off in three years.

The Slow Change

Denton’s offer was a generous one for any state, and thus far 34 people have opted into it. However, it’s still a big up-front investment, and many people in Texas don’t plan to stay in their home forever. Many people rent their homes, and landlords don’t care how much their tenants’ electric bills are. That’s the result of not just a college town, but a college state.

Texans also want incentives that other homeowners around the nation have, such as getting paid for excess electricity, but the Legislature has voted to simply put that energy back onto the grid. Some homeowners liken this to stealing, and it’s unclear how many more people would get solar panels if they were paid for the extra electricity.

Why is Solar Power so Popular Elsewhere?

Arizona and California are leading the pack when it comes to solar power usage. One of the biggest reasons is education and people are aware of the benefits (both to themselves and the environment) of going solar-powered and there are many companies ready to facilitate the switch. For example, AZ Energy Efficient Home, headed by Jonathan Waterworth, performs audits that help home owners understand LEED certification and there are dozens of installers ready to put the solar panels up. It’s also a simple matter of exposure, since the sight of a solar-powered home in California is standard and gets people thinking about their own energy consumption.

Solar panels are part of the eco-friendly movement, which is more apparent in liberal regions. Texas will likely catch up, but not without some stumbles. However, as more Texans learn that they can go virtually electric-bill free for 20-30 years, solar panels will become a more common sight.

Categories: Sustainability
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