The sun is back. Although we had a number of rain days here in Dallas, we receive, on average, over 230 days of sunlight per year. That’s not as high as our neighbors to the west, El Paso, with over 300 days of sunlight, but it’s plenty to start investing in solar energy. Countries such as Denmark, Germany and parts of the United Kingdom have far fewer sunny days than Dallas, but are some of the world’s leading producers of solar energy.
Solar photovaltaics (PVs) (solar panels) have come a long way since the early 1990s when they were extremely expensive and inefficient. New technology, storage systems, regulations, laws and incentive programs have made solar panels a viable option to invest in. Solar panels can be installed in just about any location to relieve our reliance on “dirty” energy from fossil fuels. With solar panels, you can reduce your electricity bill or eliminate it all together. Wether you live in your own house or not, solar is an option for you.
Homeowners who install solar panels, enjoy money savings, property value increase, and energy savings that equate approximately to planting about 120 trees per year. Each home is unique in energy consumption and also the solar irradiance on site. Solar irradiance is how much sunlight hits the site throughout the day but varies throughout the seasons, depending on the position of the sun in the sky. Some solar module systems are programmed to rotate or track the sun, and adjust year round to accommodate the most efficient angle to maximize the amount of sunlight/energy captured.
Homeowners can choose to own or lease solar panels. To decide the best option for your home and finances, visit the informative Homeowners Guide to Solar Financing produced by Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA.org). Make sure you understand your local laws as well because new laws are helping home owners get out of previous solar panel restrictions. This month, Governor Abbot signed into law new legislation which states, residential developments with more than 50 homes cannot ban or restrict homeowners from installing solar panels, even while new homes are still being built. Before this law, developers were stretching out building, in some cases over 10 years, leaving homeowners who wanted to install solar panels, with their hands tied. Homeowners may still have to fend with HOA approval, but the argument that solar panels are unsightly is lacking in power.
If you live in an apartment, duplex, rent your home, or want to outfit your business with solar panels, you still have options. A new movement in solar is catching on, even here in Texas, called, community solar. Community solar provides customers who cannot install solar panels, an affordable off-site option to utilize solar. Basically, you buy a solar panel that is part of a large array and the energy your panel generates is used to offset your electricity bill. The solar panel energy goes to the grid and you help make it happen. Community solar programs are a collaboration of many entities and have sprouted up in Austin, Colorado and California, to name a few. Grumblings of community solar rooftop programs here in Dallas have been heard for the last few months, so keep your eyes out to support the next community solar opportunity.
Even more cutting edge is a solar plugin. Sunport is a small hand held plug that will plug into any outlet, and using solar credits make that outlet solar power. Sunport.co is “empowering people to demand solar” and are launching their business in July with a kickstarter.com campaign.
This is only the beginning of our solar technology. Right now, the solar powered airplane, Solar Impulse, led by Swiss founders, is making it’s way around the world without a drop of fuel. The team is demonstrating that clean technologies, like solar, can achieve the impossible. No matter what way you choose, investing in the sun’s endless energy, leads us to a cleaner brighter future.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly.