Mission statement

Who we are: A grass roots volunteer group of Plano citizens
Our Mission: To increase awareness and use of Solar Energy for electricity generation in Plano
This Blog: PlanoSolar.org - for articles, useful links, resources, surveys, how-tos
**** Check out our 1 minute video **** Solar Energy in Texas - Don't you wonder?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Energy Star Homebuilders Block Installation of Solar PV in Plano Neighborhood

Homebuilders Elect to Limit Consumer Choice

This blog posting is intended for homeowners of the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood in Plano and similar homeowners elsewhere who might be in similar situations.  Readers of this blog posting are encouraged to forward it to others, especially if you know someone living in, or associated with this neighborhood.

More and more homeowners all across Plano are exercising consumer choice by choosing to make investments in their homes to add solar electric PV systems. These systems generate local electricity to meet at least some or most of their electricity needs.  But in a beautiful area of northeast Plano, homeowners are being told they don’t have the choice.

Legislation was passed in 2011 that prevents HOAs in Texas from blocking homeowners from installing solar panels on their homes.  However, there is one “loophole” in the legislation that was reportedly added at the last minute by the Texas Homebuilders Association. This loophole allows developers (builders) to withhold permission to install solar panels if the neighborhood is still in “development”.  Unfortunately for homeowners and prospective homeowners in the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood in Plano, their HOA (currently represented by only the homebuilders) is using this clause to prevent homeowners the choice of generating some of their electricity with solar panels.

It seems a bit ironic that as the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood is adding additional loads to the electric grid and increasing water requirements on a very strained and fragile water system, that these “Energy Star” homebuilders are blocking new homeowners from making their own investments to install solar electric systems. Systems that take advantage of local clean energy and that require no water for electricity generation.

Plano Solar Advocates has written letters to the homebuilders and HOA management company requesting that they change their policy and to allow homeowners this electricity consumer choice option.  To date, only one response has been received.   See the following excerpt:

… the concern is, by allowing the installation of unsightly solar panels and equipment there would be a negative impact on the aesthetic quality of the entire community.  So while solar panels would be a positive with regard to energy savings of the individual homeowner, it could negatively impact the rest of the property owners in Trails of Glenwood via diminished property values….

Now a few points here from the perspective of Plano Solar Advocates:
  1. The term “unsightly” for solar panels seems quite subjective.  We agree that solar panels are still relatively new, and it may take time for “some” people to get used to seeing them.  But by driving through the Trails of Glenwood neighborhood, you can see some things that others might think or more “unsightly” than solar panels - like high voltage transmission lines visible from every home in the neighborhood and satellite dishes installed on many roofs that are visible from the street.
  2. Trails of Glenwood residents should be becoming more familiar with solar panels because the Plano Fire Station that protects them just outside their neighborhood has solar panels on its roof.  
  3. Regarding “diminished property values” - all of the studies and articles that we have found indicate that adding local generation to homes only increases property values, not decrease.  Even a recent article in the online Builder magazine titled “Eight Reasons Your Buyers Should Opt for Solar Power" is highlighting why solar is becoming more mainstream and definitely not decreasing property values.
  4. Toyota, a company very focused on sustainability, recently announced that it is moving its North American headquarters to Plano (relocating from California).  To attract relocated employees, it seems that area homebuilders would be embracing rooftop solar technology which is widespread in California, rather than blocking it.

So in closing, we propose the following steps & recommendations for homeowners and potential homeowners of the Trails of Glenwood. Contact the HOA and homebuilders and let your voice be heard.
  1. Tell the HOA that it should be your choice not their choice whether you choose to install solar panels. Tell them to change their “development period” policy and to allow installations of solar panels.
  2. Ask the HOA and builder for clarification as to where and how it was disclosed to you before you purchased the property that you would not be allowed to install solar panels during the “development” period.
  3. If they do not agree to change their policy regarding installation of solar panels, here are some additional ideas:
    • Ask them for a specific date for when the “development” period will end and to publish this date to existing homeowners and to all new prospective homeowners.
    • For homeowners who are interested in investing and installing solar PV systems and are denied by the HOA, require the HOA to waive the $600 annual dues until the “development” period is over.  This would at least partially offset the lost electricity and potential equipment savings denied the homeowner.

If you have any additional ideas, questions or comments, we would like to hear from you.  Please use our “contact us” form on our webpage to let us know.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocates (LH)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Build Solar Ready Homes in Solar Rich Texas

Pursuant to 34 TAC §19.52, the Texas State Energy Conservation Office (SECO) is accepting written comments through August 4, 2014 on the energy efficiency provisions of the 2015 International Residential Code (IRC) for single-family residential construction and the 2015 International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) for all commercial, multi-family and industrial construction. These written comments can be provided by email.

(See - http://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/TXCOMPT/bulletins/c29371?reqfrom=share)

Included in the 2015 IRC is "Appendix U-Solar-Ready Provisions", an appendix describing provisions for building new homes solar ready.

Readers are requested to email SECO (at 2015CodeComments@cpa.texas.gov) no later than August 4, 2014 to encourage the state and local jurisdictions to adopt Appendix U as a requirement for new homes built across Texas.

Some background: 50-60 years ago, new homes being built began to widely adopt the new technology of residential central air conditioning.  The designs and building codes for homes were adapted to accommodate the changes necessary to add this new major home appliance technology. It was a wonderful technology greatly increasing the comfort and livability for Texas citizens.  So much so, the population of Texas began to grow dramatically.  Also at the same time, undoubtedly the electricity demand began to grow across the state, and in particular the peak demand began to grow with heavy air conditioning use during our long sunny summer afternoons. Not only because more people came to live in Texas, but because each home was using more electricity to power the air conditioning systems that were keeping us cool.

Fast forward to today. Peak demand electricity usage is becoming more and more of a challenge for the Texas electricity grid.  More people or continuing to move to Texas.  More new homes are being built.

Today, 50+ years after the wide spread adoption of residential central air conditioning, there is a new technology beginning to be widely deployed called rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV). Finally, each home can include technology that can generate local electricity to help power central air conditioning and other home comforts. Electricity that is generated where it is consumed, reducing the strain on the statewide electric grid. Electricity that is generated from local clean sunshine, not requiring our precious water resources like traditional centrally generated power plants. Electricity that is produced without air, water, or noise pollution.

Solar-ready provisions include relatively simple items such as including a chase that goes to the roof for solar service lines, and a roof design that provides an area of unobstructed south facing roof surface where solar panels could be installed. When included in the original design requirements and done when the home is constructed, these solar-ready provisions should add little or no cost to the overall price of new homes. See ICC Approves Changes to Energy Code for additional information.

So please take the time to generate a brief email to SECO at 2015CodeComments@cpa.texas.gov and ask them to adopt "Appendix U - Solar-Ready Provisions" of the 2015 IRC as a requirement for new homes built in Texas. And ask others you know to do the same!

Shine On!
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)



Friday, May 16, 2014

Solarbration!

2013 Solarize Plano Project Sun-Blazers! 
Adding 100kW+ of CLEAN LOCAL electricity to Plano Neighborhoods!

Well the time has really flown by! We finally had a chance to have a "Solarbration" gathering on Saturday, May 10, 2014 at the Plano Environmental Education Center.  While not all the participants were able to attend, we did have a great turnout, with great discussion and feedback. 

Attending participants were greeted and congratulated by Autumn Dillon from the City of Plano and Texas State House Member Representative Van Taylor. Representative Taylor also fielded numerous questions from the group, and it was great to hear his perspective on important topics related to promoting clean local energy sources in our community.  And special thanks to Axium Solar. They provided some great looking t-shirts for the "Sun-Blazer" participants.

Please visit the Plano Solar Advocates Facebook page (www.facebook.com/pvplano) or select this link for photos of the “Solarbration

To see all the wonderful home installations, photos are available at this link - “2013 Solarize Plano Installation Photos”

The 2013 Solarize Plano Project system installations were completed in the first quarter of this year (2014).  Twenty (20) Plano homeowners elected to install solar PV electric systems as part of the group purchase project. The combined total electrical capacity of the installations is 102.6 kW.  Overall, this brings the total number of residential installations in Plano to about 100.

What are the impacts of these most recent installations?
  1. These residents have made long term investments in their homes to create LOCAL CLEAN energy which will help them hedge and stabilize a portion of their long term electricity costs.
  2. They have helped reduce the peak electricity demand on the state’s electric grid by locally producing 140,000 kWh annually, and with no air, water, or noise pollution!
  3. They have helped reduce water consumption in North Texas, because unlike traditional electricity generation, creating electricity from solar PV panels requires no water.
  4. They have helped the local economy through increased business sales revenue and the associated local jobs.
The presentation from the Solarbration on May 10, 2014 is also available at this link - Solarbration Presentation.

Congratulations to all the 2013 Solarize Plano Project participants!

If you know anyone interested in participating in the 2014 Solarize Plano Project, we have just announced a "Phase 2". To learn more, go to www.solarizeplano.org

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocates!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Learn about Solar in Texas, North Texas, and Plano (in 5 minutes)

Watch these three short informational videos. Spread the word and help them go internet viral in Texas, North Texas, and Plano!
  1. Solar Energy in Texas - Don't You Wonder? (Plano Solar Advocates)
  2. Solar Ready II Initiative (North Central Texas Council of Governments)
  3. Solarize Plano 2014 (Plano Television Network)

Video 1 - Let's set the stage. Imagine you are watching commercials during the Superbowl. :-). Maybe you have just watched a neat multi-million dollar commercial from an energy company (oil, natural gas, etc.), and then this short (1 minute), zero dollar commercial plays...... anyway, just imagine..... Don't you wonder?

Video 2 - The North Central Texas Council of Governments currently has an initiative underway called Solar Ready II. Check out this 2 minute video to learn about it.  It features one of our 2013 Solarize Plano participants. Also see www.nctcog.org/solar

Video 3 - The Plano Television Network prepared this 2 minute video about the 2014 Solarize Plano Project.  Watch it to learn more.  If you don't live in Plano, we encourage you to start a "solarize" group purchase in your neighborhood.  See DFW Solarize Projects. Don't live in the North Texas area, check out www.SolarizeTexas.org to learn about other solarize projects starting to shine all across Texas

Shine On!
Plano Solar Energy Advocates (LH)

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Solarize YOUR Neighborhood

What IS a "solarize" event??

Let's explain by asking .. are you ready to generate some or all of the electricity you need right at home? Are you ready to go solar, but not sure where to start? Are you ready to tap that untapped local energy resource – the SUN?

On January 11, from 10am to Noon, join the North Texas Renewable Energy Group and Plano Solar Advocates to discuss the "Solarize" concept. "Solarize" is a group bulk-purchase process that can help neighborhoods and cities install rooftop solar photovoltaics at reduced cost. Come join us (and bring your neighbor!) to learn how you can start a Solarize program in your neighborhood! 

Topics for discussion: Program setup. Outreach and Education. Selecting a Solar Company. Install Solar!

The goal of the meeting will be to begin creating a network of people across the DFW area that are interested in launching projects in their own communities.  For example, a group in Garland has already started getting together. If you live in Garland, check out Solarize Garland and reach out to this group using their contact us form.

For more meeting details and logistics, check out the NTREG Events page - http://www.ntreg.org/events.shtml - and scroll down to the section titled NTREG Monthly Meeting, Saturday, January 11, 2014.

For some background before you attend, check out:

  1. This great - short - 3 minute video - Purchasing Solar Collectively with Solarize
  2. These recent articles about Solarize Plano:
    1. "Solarize Plano" Initiative Exceeds Installation Expectations in Energy-Rich Texas
    2. Grass-roots group hopes to make Plano a solar power leader
Also, if you know of any DFW area solarize projects being launched or groups that are considering to start projects, please share information in the comments to this posting.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Solarize Plano Awarded "Local Initiative of the Year" by the Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association

The Texas Renewable Energy Industries Association (TREIA) is a non-profit trade association of companies and individuals engaged in renewable energy in Texas.  TREIA has been an advocate for clean energy, energy security, energy independence, and Texas jobs since 1984.  (For more background, see www.treia.org)

Every year, TREIA organizes an annual conference called the Texas Renewables Conference (see www.texasrenewables.org).  This year's conference was held in San Antonio, Nov 11-13. The conference program covered four important topical areas:
  • Renewable Energy Opportunities Related to Fossil Fuels
  • Market Opportunities and Economic Development in Rural Texas
  • Renewable Energy Opportunities with the Defense Community
  • Innovative Renewable Energy Policies and Projects Across the State
Also, on an annual basis, TREIA's Award Committee identifies organizations, projects, and individuals to honor at the conference for their contributions to renewable energy in Texas.  This year's awards included:
  • Project of the Decade
  • Local Advocate of the Year
  • Local Initiative of the Year
  • Statewide Collaborative of the Year
  • Community Project of the Year
  • Community of the Year
  • Individual Member of the Year
Plano Solar Advocates was very excited and honored to be recognized as the award recipient for the "Local Initiative of the Year".  When introducing this award, Mark Begert of the TREIA Awards Committee, gave this introduction.

"TREIA's 2013 Local Initiative of the Year, recognizes an outstanding, promising, and replicable effort that can serve as a model to grow renewable energy in Texas. This year’s Local Initiative of the Year is the Solarize Plano Project, organized by Plano Solar Advocates.

The Solarize Plano Project demonstrates how great things can come in small packages. The program connects residential homeowners that are ready to install solar, with local, qualified installers and available incentives via a group purchase process that benefits both customers and installers.

For customers, the process gets questions answered up front, provides a means of self-screening, and increases customer satisfaction throughout the quote and installation process. By purchasing as a group, customers receive a standard system design at the lowest possible cost.

For installers, much of the up-front work of educating and qualifying customers is already complete, so they are able to more efficiently serve those who ultimately choose to contract for solar. Installers were asked to submit pricing in tiers depending on the total capacity contracted, the more solar contracted, the lower the price.

Solarize Plano initially targeted 20 enrollees in their community, and in their first pilot this year they achieved enrollment of over 200. The project selected a contractor, Axium Solar, who has completed over 52 site assessments resulting in commitments 25 contracts for 120 kW of new solar, a volume that has entitled all enrollees to the lowest cost pricing tier.

Solarize Plano is replicable model and demonstrates how the initiative of just a few individuals can make a lasting change for the better."


To learn more about the awards and award recipients, see the photographs section of  TEXAS RENEWABLES 2013 Wrap-Up. At this website, you can also check out all the presentations from the conference speakers, including Plano Solar Advocates' presentation, Solarize Plano - Educating the Community, Facilitating Installations.

And great news for the DFW area, the 2014 conference will be held in Dallas.  Learn more at Texas Renewables 2014

Plano Solar Advocates would like to thank TREIA for this award, and strongly encourages neighborhoods and communities across the state to join together to initiate SOLARIZE projects in their communities, and to take advantage of that locally available untapped energy resource - energy from the SUN!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Planning for Solar, Plano’s Next 20 Years

What do Plano Solar Advocates, Plano’s comprehensive plan update, the American Planning Association, and local clean energy generation have in common? They are all coming together to help build a vision for Plano that includes tapping our untapped local energy resource – solar energy from the sun!  The American Planning Association has prepared briefing papers and webinars to help city planners better understand how to include solar resource planning in long range plans.  And Plano Solar Advocates and our city planners are participating in these webinars to help us lay a stronger foundation for tapping this local clean energy resource.

The City of Plano is in the process of revising its Comprehensive Plan. This plan, called “Plano Tomorrow” will be the guiding document for land use development and transportation planning for the next 20 years, helping to ensure that Plano continues to be a thriving employment center and great place to live.  Citizens can become involved and provide inputs to the development of this comprehensive plan by taking an online survey, using the “engage Plano” website, and participating in a group meeting process called “Take the Case”.  Information about the process and how to get involved can be found by following this link - How Can I Get Involved?

On September 24, 2013, a number of Plano Solar Advocate volunteers met together to participate in one of the “Take the Case” group meetings.  The main objective from the meeting was to develop three to five leading ideas to provide to city planners that they would consider for including in the comprehensive plan update.  The results from our session is given at the end of this blog posting.

We are encouraging other citizens to take time to provide your inputs about Plano’s future, and in particular, Plano’s solar future by doing one or more of the following:
Please feel free to utilize ideas from our “Take the case” session when submitting your inputs if it helps you to formulate your ideas.

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocate (LH)

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Plano Solar Advocates - Leading Ideas for Plano for Comprehensive Plan suggestions developed during our Sept 24, 2013 “Take the Case” group meeting.

1. Establish an Environmental and Sustainability Citizen’s Advisory Board with representation from the City Council similar to other Boards and Commissions. This board would address all aspects of environmental sustainability including sustainable transportation, economic viability and opportunities for community engagement. Economic viability might include expanding the Research Technology area of Plano to attract higher income employment opportunities.

2. Develop and maintain a long range Energy Plan that includes all energy consumers - municipal, residential and business. Plano currently imports all of its electricity. The energy plan should include the objective of meeting 40% of electricity needs from locally generated solar power, 40% from imported clean energy, and the remaining 20% coming from reduced consumption and conventional energy sources. Utilizing local distributed solar energy will help offset peak demand periods, especially in the summer, and reduce stress on the utility distribution grid. A goal for the energy plan would for Plano to become known as the leader of Solar Friendly Communities across Texas and the nation. Plano should be also become a leader in the implementation of the Texas PACE program, the Texas Property Assessed Clean Energy Act legislation passed in June 2013. (See http://www.keepingpaceintexas.org/)

3. Update and enhance building code standards to promote energy net zero buildings for both new structures and re-development projects. This should include public education regarding the importance of natural resource stewardship.

4. Establish plan and vision to address long range water challenges, including reuse of gray water.  In combination with an energy plan that promotes local solar energy for electricity generation, water resources can be conserved because electricity generation from PV solar does not require water, unlike conventional centrally generated electricity power plants. Also, the treatment and delivery of our water supplies to our home and businesses requires a significant amount of electricity. Let’s make sure we understand the percentage of our water bills that are due to electricity costs and look for ways to improve efficiencies and reduce these energy costs. And, let’s make sure we are using clean energy resources like solar to generate electricity in the treatment and delivery of water.

5. Re-development of retail and commercial areas, including vacant strip centers. Possible options could include zoning for shared solar farms (or gardens) that would allow persons who are renters or whose homes are not suitable for solar installations to buy shares of the solar farm and receive credits on their electric bills for the production from their share of the solar farm.

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