You may have noticed a growing number of your neighbors with solar panels on their roofs, a green energy alternative to standard home electricity service. But how easy is it to switch?
And is it worth it?
“Yes and no,” said Josh Sterling, manager of Energy Solutions for CoServ. “From an environmental, green standpoint, you can’t put a price on that. From a return-on-investment standpoint, I don’t want to say no, but usually it’s a very extended timeline.”
Sterling said that solar panels typically have a 20-25 year warranty, and for a lot of people, it can take 15-20 years before their savings equal the initial cost of the equipment.
Lantana resident Viren Singh was an early adopter of solar energy, installing solar panels in 2010, and he recommends it for anyone with no plans to move soon.
“For my situation, it made sense,” Singh said. “I knew I was going to stay in my house because I had small kids. It has already paid for itself, and we’re still going to be here for another five years.
“For other people, it should boil down to what you are comfortable paying.”
Singh said that 12 years ago, he received a rebate from CoServ and a 30% federal credit that brought his total cost for his 6.1 KW system down to about $14,000. Less than seven years later, he broke even. It offsets about 30-40% of his home’s electricity usage, and has really helped offset the higher energy costs that affected all utilities in Texas in the wake of Winter Storm Uri. The panels have not had any major maintenance issues, despite hail storms and a house fire next door. They have a 25-year guarantee at a production rate of at least 90%.
“If you can offset your costs, I would go for it,” Singh said. “It’s just using free, unused space on your roof. See if it is going to be cost effective for you. Even a small one can help offset some of your costs.”
The process for having solar power installed at your home has been made simple. The physical installation can take a day or two, and then it can take a few weeks for CoServ to get out for an inspection, Sterling said, because there’s been an influx in solar energy demand.
“Demand is at its peak for CoServ,” Sterling said. “We’re seeing this trend around the state and the nation. We had the most solar applications in CoServ history in July.”
Sterling said interested residents should know that solar energy alone won’t keep their power on, unless they have backup battery storage. Residents with solar power still need to be hooked up to the electric grid, in case their solar energy production is not enough to cover their usage.
“A lot of times, people will automatically assume their electric bill will be $0, but that’s not necessarily true because you may not have enough solar power generated,” Sterling said. “You may not get full production to offset your actual consumption.”
CoServ no longer offers a rebate, like it did in 2010 when Singh had it installed, but there is still a 30% federal tax credit. Sterling recommended that anyone interested in getting solar panels talk to a tax professional first “because there are certain requirements that have to be met, and you may not always get that credit.”
CoServ does not sell or install solar panels, but they can help you decide if solar is right for you and help you find a certified installer.
Another way to go green without investing in solar panels is participating in CoServ’s Solar Savings plan. There’s no upfront cost or long-term commitment and all members are eligible—even renters. CoServ has its own solar energy farm on 16 acres near Krugerville in northeastern Denton County. It also buys 52 megawatts of power from the massive Lapetus Solar Project in far West Texas. CoServ’s Solar Savings Rate is competitive with its Standard Residential Rate—the biggest difference is that it supports 100 percent renewable energy throughout Texas.