This is not intended as an advertisement for APS. I wanted to share an article the will be published in the Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston BusinessMessage 1 of 1 , Feb 24, 2011View SourceThis is not intended as an advertisement for APS. I wanted to share an article the will be published in the Austin, Dallas, San Antonio and Houston Business Journals regarding pending legislation that I believe will benefit our renewable economy.
By Steve Habel, Legislative correspondent
Proposed legislation at the Texas Capitol may widen the market for companies in the solar power industry.
Four proposed bills seek to spur the use of solar energy. As an effort is mounting to ensure homeowners associations don’t stand in the way of solar panel installations, another aims to mandate that builders offer solar power as an option.
Two of the bills — Senate Bill 302, as filed by Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio, and House Bill 450, proposed by Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville — would stop homeowners associations from interfering with owners who want to erect solar devices as long as they are on a roof or in fenced-in property. Many HOAs prohibit solar panels because of the way they look.
“I don’t have much patience for those sorts of nit-picky rules,” Sen. Wentworth said.
A similar proposal failed during the last legislative session two years ago, but advocates are confident they’ll get a bill passed before the current session ends this summer.
There’s already a precedent for limiting HOAs for the betterment of the environment. A 2003 state law penned by Rep. Robert Puente, D-San Antonio, keeps property owners’ associations from prohibiting water-saving measures such as installing rain barrels or implementing efficient irrigation systems.
Natalie Marquis, executive director of the Texas Solar Energy Society, says solar panels are common in Europe and shouldn’t be feared here.
“There they don’t hesitate to put solar on buildings that are historic in our views — more than 1,000 years old,” Marquis said. “We’d be wise to follow their lead and rapidly deploy rooftop solar. We hope that this Legislature will disempower HOAs from prohibiting solar installations.”
Due to its size and proximity, Texas has 70 percent more solar potential than any other state, according to the solar energy society. The energy from sunshine falling on a single acre of land in West Texas (which has 75 percent more direct solar radiation than East Texas) is capable of producing the energy equivalent of 800 barrels of oil each year.
Texas Community Association Advocates, which represents homeowners associations and home builders, supports the rights for homeowners to install solar energy devices, provided that there are some provisions which define placement and location so as not to create an unsafe or aesthetic concern for the neighborhood.
“There needs to be a balance between energy efficiency and architectural integrity,” said Sandy Denton, a spokeswoman for the TCAA. “We are working with Texas legislators to assure the bills take these concerns into consideration.”
Larry Atherton, CEO of Houston-based Alternative Power Solutions, believes HB 450 and SB 302 could spur business.
“If passed, the bills will allow other homeowners who have been interested in solar to look closer at the benefits and realization of installing a solar system without the inherent battle with the HOA board,” Atherton said.
“I look forward to the day when people will look at a homeowner and see that they have made a smart financial and economic decision for both their future electricity consumption and the many benefits they provide to the environment.”
Home builders, utilities targeted too
In SB 619 filed by Sen. Jose Rodriguez, D-El Paso, builders in subdivisions of more than 50 homes must offer solar panels as an option for heating or cooling or for the production of power. By rolling the cost of the system into a homeowners’ mortgage, advocates said more homeowners could afford to go solar.
“Currently, very few builders offer solar as an option,” Atherton said. “Usually we are called upon if the homeowner makes a request to have a solar system installed.”
In SB 492, filed by Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, electric utilities would be required to administer incentive programs to entice residential and commercial customers to take solar power.
Atherton said SB 492 will have an enormous impact on his company’s business and could open the floodgates to more solar opportunities in Texas, creating more jobs and bringing the necessary visibility to the many benefits of solar in the state.