Getting Solar Going: Our Strength, Our Future
Jul 07, 2011 02:21PM
By Betty Buckley
Solar and renewable energy systems are affordable and a good investment in the future. That is the message of Shelby Ruff, vice president of Solar Community, based in San Antonio and Austin, and Dan Dean, engineer and managing director of Greenland Energy Dynamics, in Dallas. Some cities, such as San Antonio and Austin, offer healthy rebates that have helped drive sales and growth in South Texas, and a 30 percent federal tax credit incentive is available nationwide. These rebates have provided enough of a stimulus to keep many of the growing solar, geothermal and clean tech businesses in North Texas busy.
While some Texas residents may feel the need to wait for multiple in- centives in order to make that bold, clean tech step, clean and green tech investments in a home are similar to building a personal hedge fund against the rising and future costs of energy.
Ruff was a part of the team that launched Solar Community in 2006 (SolarCommunity.net). At first, selling solar—especially in San Antonio—was tough going. Existing rebates from CPS Energy that led to a number of solar startups had vanished, but by 2008, the rebates were back and the company has experienced tremendous growth. Says Ruff, “In 2009, we doubled, and in 2010 we grew 500 percent. Six months into this year, we have already made our sales projections for 2011. We are adding new jobs all over Texas and expanding our Texas reach, with plans to launch nationally.”
Solar Community currently offers not only solar sales, but also a solar leasing program, with no money down. “The solar community concept creates even more savings. Gather at least five neighbors together, all intent on purchasing the same components, and get a bulk rate. Prices go down even further,” says Ruff.
With energy prices sure to increase, the investment should outweigh the cost, and free, customized estimates are a useful tool. In the San Antonio area, a 5 kilowatt system on the roof of a 2,000-square-foot house, after figuring rebates, tax incentives, and currently low energy rates, means the monthly out-of- pocket cost can be as low as $15 on a15-year loan. The lending community there sees these green home improve- ments as a good investment, so financing is available.
To learn more about incentives and rebates, the website SolarPoweRocks.com does a good job distilling what is available and where. In San Antonio, the nonprofit Solar San Antonio, (SolarSanAntonio.org), recently launched a Bring Solar Home campaign, acceler- ating ongoing interest in solar that has seen 300 solar installations in 2010 over 38 in 2009.
To make solar, wind, or any clean system work properly, the homeowner needs to take steps to prevent leaks and make the home as energy efficient as possible. Solar San Antonio, as well as Build San Antonio Green’s website (bsag.org), offer great information about retrofits, as well as home energy raters that can perform energy audits and reports. The site also lists “green” remodeling businesses to complete the work recommended. CPS Energy’s new Energy Savers adds another component: an energy “concierge” to help answer questions and provide guidance.
Betty Buckley is a freelance writer, film producer and sustainabilty advocate. Contact her at [email protected].