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City launches program to install rooftop solar panels for Houstonians at a cheaper price

Houston Chronicle 11/23/2022 Yilun Cheng, Staff writer
© Meridith Kohut, Contributor

The city of Houston is offering a new program to allow residents to install rooftop solar systems at a discounted price.

The group-buying effort, called Texas Solar Switch Houston, will pool together the purchasing power of all registered homeowners in order to negotiate a reduced price for each participant. Program staff will then carry out a competitive auction process in December to select the installer with the best deal.

The city will implement the project in partnership with Solar United Neighbors, a Washington, D.C.-based national nonprofit that focuses on solar advocacy, and iChoosr, a company that specializes in group purchases. 

"With energy prices increasing, homeowners and small businesses are looking for opportunities to save on their energy bills and increase their resilience to climate-related events," Mayor Sylvester Turner said in a news release. "Texas Solar Switch Houston provides our community with a simple and straightforward way to become better informed about solar energy and access a competitive offer from a vetted, experienced solar installation company."

With plenty of sunshine in Texas, an average participant can expect a net savings of approximately $20,000 over the lifetime of a solar system when investing in one, the program website shows. Some energy companies also offer “solar buyback plans” that purchase excess electricity produced by users’ solar panels, which would further increase their savings.

Moreover, those who introduce solar power into their homes often see a rise in their property values -- by about 4 percent -- according to research by Zillow, a real estate marketplace.

Read more: CenterPoint delays mean solar panels costing thousands of dollars sit useless on Houston roofs

The new project is especially timely because of Congress’ passage of the Inflation Reduction Act in August, said Hanna Mitchell, the Texas program director at Solar United Neighbors. The pro-solar legislation includes a 30 percent tax credit on the installation cost for those who switch to solar through the end of 2032. The credit will then decrease to 26 percent in 2033 and to 22 percent in 2034. 

“More and more Houstonians are looking to solar and battery storage for self-sufficiency, which has the added benefit of making our grid more resilient,” Mitchell said. “With the recent passage of the IRA, now is a particularly good time to go solar.”

Interested Houstonians can register online for free without committing to a purchase. They will then receive a personalized offer by Jan. 11 based on the type and condition of their roof and will have until Feb. 21 to decide if they want to move forward with installation. 

Read more: Solar poised to double footprint in Texas, grow worldwide, report finds

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