Over the last ten years, the solar power industry in Texas has evolved a lot. In 2017, Texas was ranked the fourth top state for solar power employment, and it was ranked seventh in terms of solar power output capacity, which is an impressive feat. It’s clear that Texas is a solar power-friendly state in terms of the industry itself, but what about for homeowners? Can individuals get involved with renewable energy?
Solar Panel Laws in Texas
For the most part, Texas is a solar-power friendly state. However, up until 2015, there was a loophole in the law that allowed property developers to block the installation of solar panels on homes in new neighborhoods. That loophole has since been closed, and now homeowners are allowed to install solar panels in Texas.
The Texas House Bill (HB)362 was originally intended to prevent Home Owners Associations and Property Owners Associations from restricting the installation of solar panels outright but required homeowners to put in a written request for planning permission to an Architecture Review Committee.
According to the Texas Property Code Section 202.010, HOAs and POAs are only permitted to refuse consent to install solar panels in some highly limited scenarios, such as:
- If the devices are illegal or would be a danger to public safety
- The planned installation would be on a common property in the subdivision
- The panels extend beyond the roofline, are not parallel to the roof, or do not follow the roofline
- If the panels are installed on the ground and extend above/beyond the fence of the owner’s property
- The installation is performed in a way that would violate the warranty
- Any element of the panel is not silver, bronze, or black in tone
- The panels were installed without approval by the HOA/POA
Senate Bill 1626 prohibits homeowners from installing solar panels during the development phase of the property complex/housing area. Some property developers used this rule as a loophole by keeping their properties “in development” for decades, so that they could refuse consent for homeowners to install solar panels. This loophole was closed in 2015 when Bill 1626 was updated to state that only property developments that were smaller than 50 units could refuse permission for homeowners to install solar panels during the development phase. Bigger property developments are not allowed to refuse permission for solar panels.
Nonprofit Energy Companies
Munis and Co-Ops enjoy the benefit of being free from the kind of regulation that traditional energy companies are subject to. This means that they are not required to participate in the same markets, and can focus on their own vertical. Because of this, Texans who choose to buy power from a solar nonprofit can often enjoy very low energy prices that are relatively stable. Co-ops do have the option of “opting in” to the competitive market, but there is not really any incentive to do so, and it is unusual for co-ops to choose to exercise this right.
There are some registration requirements for solar power companies in Texas. These rules relate to Distributed Generation (DG).
If a DG system generates more than 1 MW, then it is required to be registered with ERCOT. If the system is going to generate more than 10MW and will be supplying net power to the grid, then there are some additional requirements. At the time of writing, PUCT does not place any specific requirements on co-ops or munis, but many solar power companies in Texas use PUCTs commercial guidelines to guide their developments and as an example of best practice.
Why Texans Choose Solar Power
It makes environmental and economic sense for people who reside in Texas to use solar power, since the state enjoys an average of 135 clear days per year, working out at around 2850 hours of sunlight per year for use in solar power generation.
Solar power is readily available, and because the solar industry in Texas is thriving, solar panels are relatively inexpensive too. The low barrier to entry and high power return combined mean that residents are likely to see rapid return on their investment.
The Texas Solar Power Association is an organization which works both with homeowners and commercial property owners to advance the development of solar power generation in the state. The association is made up of solar panel manufacturers, power plant developers, and companies that participate in the power supply lines for residential and commercial properties, as well as plant developers. The work of the association includes lobbying for legal changes and for incentives to encourage the adoption of solar power in the state.
According to the Texas Solar Power Association, the cost of solar panels in the state has fallen by 88% since 2009. At the time of writing, ERCOT supplies 90% of the power load for the state, with a peak supply of 78,000MW. It makes sense to try to use solar power, domestically, to reduce some of this load. For home users, standard photovoltaic panels can provide an opportunity to get off-grid for a portion of your power generation.
As of January 2020, there is no statewide grant scheme for solar power for homeowners in Texas but there are some local incentives. Austin Energy, Oncor and CPS Energy offer incentives for their customers. There are also rebates for solar power installations offered to homeowners in the areas of the Guadalupe Valley Electric Cooperative, Garland Power Light and City of Sunset Valley.