Monday, August 25, 2014

Energy Literacy - in Plano and North Texas

As students in Plano and many districts across North Texas head back to school today, let's take some time for all of us to increase our literacy about our energy consumption and its impacts.

When first learning about rooftop solar, it is important to do some homework to understand how much electricity your home or business uses on an annual basis in total kilowatt-hours (kWh). While most of us know about how much we spend in dollars on our monthly electric bill, we need to better understand our total average annual kWh usage before taking the next steps for investing in rooftop solar (or similar energy efficiency investment).  Improving our understanding of how much electricity energy we consume is an important first step to improving our overall "energy literacy".  

And improving our "energy literacy" is significant for two broad reasons.  First - it appears that the North Texas area annually uses more electricity than any other region of the state. (More about this in the next paragraph.) And second, most of the electricity we consume in North Central Texas is generated by central power plants outside the area we live.  Therefore, the impacts of this electricity generation delivered to our region - good or bad - we don't seem to know, or care about. Over time, we can dramatically shift this second point, by taking advantage of clean local energy available to us almost every day - from the sun! With technology available today, we can grow and enrich our community by combining the use of this local solar resource with expanding our energy literacy and energy efficiency.

The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) manages the flow of electric power to 24 million Texas customers - representing 85 percent of the state's electric load.  Their website ( provides a wealth of information about electricity use across Texas.  Much of this data is grouped in eight zones across the state. Plano and the DFW area are in the North Central Texas zone. Annually this zone is the highest consumer of electricity of all the eight ERCOT zones, consuming one-third of all the electricity of Texas. By doing a bit more math on some additional data from ERCOT, it can be calculated that the average residential customer in the North Central zone used 16,220 kWh in 2013.  This is about 10% higher than the average across all the zones and almost 20% higher than the zone with the least annual usage. 

Plano consumes over 4 Billion (with a capital B) kilowatt-hours of electricity every year. With today’s available solar photovoltaic technology, about 40% of this demand could be met with about three percent of the city’s 72 square miles of surface area.  Think residential and business rooftops!  Local CLEAN energy, that uses no water for generation, and is generated where it is consumed so no energy waste in transmission. 

As Texas, and especially the North Texas area continues to grow, it seems that improving our "energy literacy" and taking advantage of clean local solar energy might help us in the long term save money, reduce our water consumption, improve our air quality, and improve our overall quality of life.  

To help us in the journey of improving our "energy literacy", we wanted to let our blog readers know about a very informative webinar held by the US Department of Energy on August 5 titled "National Energy Literacy Virtual Town Hall".  Links to the webcast information, presentation, and additional information are available at this link -

Points of interest from the webinar:
Please take a look at some of this information and let us know what we can do to help improve Energy Literacy in Plano!

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocates (LH)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Texas HOAs generally CANNOT block south street facing solar installations

Texas HB-362 passed in the 82nd Legislative session (2011), limits HOAs and POAs from restricting solar devices outright.  While working with a few Solarize Plano participants and other residents in Plano, we have encounter a few instances were HOAs have initially denied placement of street facing southern exposure solar panels. 

Under the Texas solar legislation, an HOA cannot prevent you from installing solar panels on your south facing roof if it faces the street.  You just have to work with the solar installation company to show that any alternate location proposed by the HOA that doesn't use the south facing roof will decrease efficiency (annual production) by 10% or more. This is generally not a problem when comparing south facing roof placed solar panels vs solar panels facing east or west. 

It is recommended that persons installing solar PV and that live in an HOA governed area, and that need to install panels on their south facing street facing roof, to have their solar company include upfront in their submission to the HOA review committee the necessary calculations for their planned solar PV system that show that not using the south facing roof will decrease annual production by 10% or greater.  Including this in the initial submission should help reduce the overall HOA review cycle time.

If you, or anyone you know, has been holding off installing solar PV because of this, we can help them through the process.  To reach us for assistance, please use our "Contact Us" form.

For additional information, please see our "Useful Links" page and scroll down to the section titled "Policy & References related to HOAs (Home Owners Associations)"

Thoughts and feedback on this topic would be appreciated!

Shine On!
Plano Solar Advocates (LH)