By Maureen MCINTYRE January 21, 2015
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.
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.”
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.