In a previous edition of the A-J, I offered less-than-encouraging information on the economics of home-grown power. Although the barriers to wind and solar are formidable, that doesn’t mean we can’t “set the table” while the economics of alternative energy improve. By building a solid foundation, I believe a savvy shopper can gradually achieve the dream of sustainable energy:
• Efficiency first: The best and first step for making a solar or wind project feasible is reducing your electric demand to the lowest possible level. One reason I say this is that efficiency is typically the most cost effective and green energy “source” that is available. However, the biggest factor is that every watt of alternative energy is expensive and eliminating the need for any extra power capacity is money well spent.
• Size sensibly: A saying I like is “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good.” It’s another way of saying that half a loaf beats none. In alternate energy installations, some make the mistake of wanting Mother Nature to provide 100% of their needs. Doing this can dramatically increase the cost of an installation. In reality, it is more sensible to set your sights lower and match a system to supply your base load. In West Texas, this will probably be the power your home uses during winter. While leaving room for your system to grow, I think it makes the most sense to install a system that will rarely supply excess power to your house. The best way to do this is sizing for your base load.
• Incentives: While taking advantage of deals is the last thing Savvy Shoppers need to be told, mentioning specific offers never hurts! Despite the fact that inducements for renewable energy are thin in our area, federal tax credits are still available. If you can install a system before the end of 2023, you will reduce your installation cost by up to 26% by claiming an income tax credit. Some state benefits include exemption of your system’s value from property tax assessments. Although there aren’t grants for residential application at this point, be sure to check for state of Texas incentives when you are ready to start a project: https://comptroller.texas.gov/programs/seco/#skip-scroll. An additional resource for information on this subject is at the Database for State Incentives for Renewable Energy (www.dsireusa.org/)
• Net metering: South Plains Electric Cooperative and Lubbock Power and Light provide “net metering,” where a customer can get credit for excess power, but neither provider pays for excess energy generated over a billing cycle. This can be thought of as overages gaining you store credit that can only be used to offset the electricity that the utility provides. Since the economics will vary depending on system size and utility charges, I can only recommend sharpening your pencil and carefully calculating cost vs. benefit when specifying your system.
• Resources: A magazine I really liked was Home Power Magazine (www.homepower.com/home). While new issues are no longer published, you can get free access to all their previous content here: www.homepower.com/home. On top of having a lot of great information, it provides food-for-thought and points you to additional sources of information. For solar projects, www.builditsolar.com/ details a wide variety of inexpensive solar heating projects you can take on.
As a confession, I only use power provided by my utility, but it isn’t due to a lack of interest in home-grown energy. My main barriers are the same as everyone else’s. However, once I have my home’s energy requirements down to the bare minimum and the conditions are right, I will probably install a system. Even if the dollars and cents don’t quite add up, I might treat it as a luxury item and do it anyway. In the long run, I think such systems will only become more common due to ever-improving economics.
If you have actually installed a system or have additional ideas on renewable energy, please share them. Visit and “Like” our Facebook site (Click www.facebook.com/LubbockSavvyShopper or log on to Facebook and enter “Lubbock Savvy Shopper” in the search tool) or write us at SavvyShopperLubbock@gmail.com and fill us in on your ideas.
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SEAN FIELDS is the A-J’s Savvy Shopper. Read his columns Sundays and Wednesdays. Email him at SavvyShopperLubbock@gmail.com, like his Facebook page at Facebook.com/LubbockSavvyShopper, or see previous columns and deals at lubbockonline.com/savvy-shopper.