Teresa McUsic

Tax credit, rebates can slash cost of solar panels for your home

Texas ranks 8th in the country with 5,535 solar systems installed, such as this homeowner’s in Weatherford.
Texas ranks 8th in the country with 5,535 solar systems installed, such as this homeowner’s in Weatherford. Star-Telegram

If you’re interested in getting solar panels installed on your house, you may want to jump on board soon.

One way to start is by checking out the sixth annual DFW Solar Tour on Saturday. The free tour of 50 homes and buildings with solar, wind, green cars and other renewable energy features is put on by the North Texas Renewable Energy Group, a nonprofit educational organization.

Now more than ever is the time to consider solar, said Jim Duncan, the organization’s president.

A federal law that allows for a 30 percent tax credit for residential solar installation expires at the end of next year and replacement legislation does not include a credit for houses, only commercial installation, Duncan said.

In addition, Duncan said, those wanting solar panels should sign up now for Oncor’s solar photovoltaic residential standard offer program, which can take thousands off the cost of solar panel installation with a rebate.

The program runs out of funds quickly each year and is now fully subscribed. Duncan said the best way to get funding is to put your name on the waiting list for next year. To do that, go to www.TakeALoadOffTexas.com and work through one of the program’s service providers.

Both the tax credit and Oncor’s rebate program took a substantial chunk off the cost of 22 solar panels on Danny Kokurek’s home behind Veterans Park in Arlington, which is featured in the DFW Solar Tour.

Kokurek’s 5.5 kilowatt system, build in 2012, had a total cost of $28,822. But when you subtract the Oncor rebate ($11,000) and the tax credit ($5,347), his cost came down to less than half the original total at just $12,475.

He says he now pays nothing for electricity in the summer, and averages less than $50 a month the rest of the year (he has a heat pump, which uses electricity, and his system generates less electricity in the winter, requiring him to buy power during that part of the year.)

Kokurek’s house faces east-west, instead of the more favorable southern exposure for the panels, but he can still generate enough power for the high-usage summer months.

While Kokurek, an emergency room physician, said he likes the idea of helping save the planet for his children using renewable resources, he didn’t do it just for that. He considers solar a smart financial move.

“I would make the sacrifice to help my children in their future, but I don’t consider this a sacrifice,” he said.

Indeed, Kokurek even put a chart together to show how the return on his solar investment is producing about 5.5 percent, considerably higher than CDs or similar no-risk investments.

His annual electric bill savings is close to $700 a year, a substantial amount considering his house was built with energy efficiency features such as a metal roof, solar water heater and stained concrete floors. In his previous home, he said his summer electric bills frequently reached $600 a month.

And Kokurek said he sells electricity back to the grid that he doesn’t use. Several electric retailers, including Green Mountain used by Kokurek, will buy electricity from solar production at the same rate that they sell electricity.

Duncan said there are around 2,200 solar installations in the nine-county area and that solar is growing 30-40 percent a year here.

“But that is nowhere near its potential,” he said. “It all comes down to a lack of incentives or motivation by the state.”

During the last legislative session, a loophole was closed so that homeowners associations can no longer ban residential solar in neighborhoods, Duncan said. But Texas could do much more to provide financial incentives for the industry to grow here, he said.

Texas ranks eighth in the country with 5,535 solar systems installed, according to the National Renewable Energy Lab. By comparison, No. 1 California, which has had numerous financial incentives for building solar systems, has almost 300,000 solar systems installed.

Now may be time to look at the math for your home.

Teresa McUsic’s column appears Saturdays. TMcUsic@SavvyConsumer.net

DFW Solar Tour

▪  10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 3, free self-guided tours of 50 homes, businesses and government buildings. Volunteers on site to answer questions and provide information.

▪  Solar, wind, geothermal, energy efficiency and sustainable designs

▪  Nissan Leaf and Tesla vehicles available for test drives

▪  Local sites include Arlington, Azle, Hurst, Grapevine, Keller, Southlake and Weatherford. For sites and more information, go to www.dfwsolartour.org

Source: North Texas Renewable Energy Group