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Lantana family has sunny outlook

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Residents of Lantana have become accustomed to the many familiar sights the community has to offer.  The manicured lawns, beautiful green spaces, abundant parks, a fine golf course… but these days residents are noticing a new sight; that one house with the solar panels. 

You know the one I’m talking about, that array of 24 black panels facing due south, visible to drivers on FM 407 near Rayzor Road.  That’s the one, the one that begs questions like, “I wonder what that guy saves in a month?” and, “I wonder what a person would have to pay to get that kind of technology installed?” 

Homeowner Viren Singh of Lantana’s Carlisle neighborhood asked all of those questions and many more and then took the plunge with a network of solar panels that produces upwards of 22 kilowatt hours a day.  What that means moneywise is a potential 57-percent savings on electric bills through the year. 

Mr. Singh indicated that his electric meter no longer exhibits the normal summer behavior of spinning without end.  The peak power production for solar panels is of course at the sunniest time of day, between 10 am and 2 pm.  At that time, Singh says his meter often runs in reverse, knocking dollars off his electric bill. 

As with many two story homes, Mr. Singh’s house has two A/C units, and he says that at midday with both units running the electric meter stands dead still.  Singh anticipates the system will create a negative electric bill in the fall and spring. 

While some neighborhoods may have design restrictions related to solar installations, Mr. Singh worked with the Lantana HOA on this “green” project.  Lantana Community Association Manager Bruce Crawford says, “The Lantana Community Design Guidelines encourage the use of energy conservation techniques.  The Architectural Review Committee works with homeowners on a case by case basis in an effort to facilitate the use of various techniques where applicable.” 

The technology, installation, permits, and tie in to the electric grid does not come cheap.  Mr. Sing’s total out of pocket was about $1100 per panel.

“Because Mr. Sing is a member living in the CoServ Electric service area, he is eligible to apply for CoServ’s solar rebate program – which pays $2.50 a watt, for a maximum rebate of $5,000”, said CoServ Electric’s Energy Management Supervisor, Stephen Meers.

CoServ Electric’s Think Green Rebate Program also offers residential incentives for CFLs, heat pump replacements, HVAC tune-ups, and the aforementioned solar rebate. Business account members can take advantage of a commercial lighting upgrade rebate that pays .30 per watt saved per fixture. Funding for each rebate program is limited and applications are processed on a first-come, first served basis. For details, visit coserv.com and click on TOGETHERWESAVE>Think Green Rebate Program. 

The installation was done by Jorge Diez of Diez Energy Solutions in Highland Village.  Mr. Diez points out that the costs can be partially offset by the fact that most area power companies offer substantial credits for such an installation, and the Federal government has an uncapped 30% tax rebate after local credits have been applied.  After all credits and rebates have been applied Mr. Singh’s system will cost just under $15,000.  He believes it will take between 7-10 years to recoup this cost depending on how sunny it is during that time (CoServ estimated a payback time of 17 years based on Singh’s historical usage and how much energy the panels are expected to produce, calculated at www.pvwatts.org).

Thanks to solar technology, Mr. Singh now lives in an upside down world… a world where electric meters often run in reverse.  While most North Texans bemoan the lack of rain and cloudy days offering respite from the sun, Mr. Singh can shrug off the sun and the heat as he sits in air conditioned comfort watching an electric meter that at times does not move. 

Editor’s note:  New information from electric provider CoServ is included in this article, which originally was published in the June 2010 issue of The Cross Timbers Gazette.

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