Solar Touring in Texas

By Maureen MCINTYRE

Jodi and Steve Hendon, at their house with tour attendees Carolyn and Rusty Wells during the DFW Solar tour, figure they get about a 7 percent tax-free return on their investment in a photovoltaic system. Photo credit: Mellen West
Jodi and Steve Hendon, at their house with tour attendees Carolyn and Rusty Wells during the DFW Solar tour, figure they get about a 7 percent tax-free return on their investment in a photovoltaic system. Photo credit: Mellen West

Deep in the heart of Texas, ASES chapter Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES) and TXSES chapter the North Texas Renewable Energy Group (NTREG) each hosted an on-the-ground tour in 2014.

The 2014 Hill Country Solar Tour was a collaboration between Pedernales Electric Cooperative (PEC) and TXSES.

This year, 350 solar enthusiasts attended a Solar Installer Fair, kids workshop, and other events at PEC’s Liberty Hill office. The three homes and one business on the solar tour had about 140 visitors each who came to learn about the sites’ photovoltaic (PV) installations.

NTREG’s DFW Solar Tour featured a record 47 locations across North Texas. Volunteers and solar homeowners at those sites welcomed more than 380 visitors and showcased more than 20 electric and hybrid vehicles.

Aline Milam
Aline Milam, a senior training instructor with Pedernales Electric Cooperative, hurries to deliver signs for the Hill Country Solar Tour. Photo credit: Pedernales Electric Cooperative

One stop on the tour, the Bollar home in Southlake, features a 17-kilowatt (kW) PV system that provides about 90 percent of the family’s electricity. Rick Bollar drives a Tesla Model S he charges with the PV system.

“The car is awesome,” Bollar says. “I look forward to driving it every day—and the fact that it’s free to operate is just gravy!”

Jodi and Steve Hendon, whose Cedar Hill home was also on the 2014 DFW Solar Tour, had thought about installing a PV system but didn’t think they could afford it. After figuring out the return on investment, however, they installed a 9-kW ground-mounted system in December 2009.

“Our electricity bills dropped immediately,” says Jodi Hendon. “We’ve gone from $700 bills in August to less than $200.”

Txses
Former Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES) board chairs Vaughn Nelson (left) and John Gardner share a laugh while Lucy Stolzenburg (background right), TXSES executive director, expounds on the benefits of solar energy. Three hundred and fifty solar enthusiasts attended the fourth annual Hill Country Solar Tour and Installer Fair in Liberty Hill, Texas. Photo credit: Pedernales Electric Cooperative

Before the PV installation, their 2009 bills averaged $340 every month. In 2014, their average electric bill was about $105.

“We’ve even had negative bills,” Steve adds. “We figure we’re getting about a 7 percent return on our initial investment and it’s tax-free!”

For more information on the DFW Solar Tour, visit dfwsolartour.org.

Additional Texas solar events included Solar San Antonio’s Solar Fest, a free annual off-the grid event that organizers estimate drew between 3,000 and 4,000 this year. The Houston Renewable Energy Group, a TXSES chapter, also hosted a virtual tour.

For more information, visit txses.org/solar/content/solar-tours.

Maureen McIntyre is the editor and publisher of SOLAR TODAY.