San Antonio’s City Public Service Energy Hosts Solar Practitioner Seminar

CPS Energy, San Antonio’s municipal utility, is one of three municipal utilities in Texas with a solar rebate program. It’s been offering rebates to customers who install solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their homes or property since July 2007. The standard rebate, $3.00 per watt AC, is available to all CPS Energy customers and there are no explicit size limitations. The maximum rebate for residential systems is $10,000 or 50% of the invoice cost, whichever is less. For non-residential systems the maximum rebate is $50,000 or 50% of the invoice cost.

Back in November, CPS Energy and the City of San Antonio hosted a Solar Practitioners Seminar on CPS Energy’s solar PV rebate program and the City’s electrical requirements. Now, CPS Energy and the City of San Antonio are on track to streamline and make more efficient the rules and processes for its solar installers, including NABCEP certification. Marlene Brown, Sandia National Laboratories, discussed permitting requirements.

For San Antonio solar installers, attendance at the seminar was mandatory if they wished to continue to participate in the rebate program.

Though 20 people were invited, more than 90 people showed up. “We were surprised at the large turnout,” said Matt Haecker, CPS Project Manager.

It’s not a surprise.

With the recent eight-year extension of the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), coupled with the utility’s solar rebate, CPS Energy expects its current roster of solar installers to increase.

If the response to CPS Energy’s RFP for 100 MW of solar is any indication, it has good reason to expect an increase in solar installers. “While we can’t divulge details just yet about the solicitation,” said Bruce Evans, Director of CPS Energy’s Customer Service and Delivery, “we had at least 500 inquiries about the RFP. We feel like we got some very good responses with good pricing.”

Currently, CPS Energy has some 21 approved solar installers. “We expect the demand for qualified installers to increase,” says Matt Haecker, “and we want to be able to meet that demand. We’re telling our contractors that they have two years to become NABCEP-certified if they want to continue to participate in our rebate program.”

Haecker expects that several San Antonio’s solar installers will apply to sit for the March 14, 2009 NABCEP exam.

CPS Energy’s solar contractors handle all of the paperwork for the rebate. “Actually, there are two packets for our program,” says Haecker. “One is for us, which contains the application, a one or three-line, site layouts, side elevation where the equipment will be, a copy of the interconnect agreement and the invoice, and a signed release from the customer. The other packet is for the City’s which asks for a bit more detail, like UL listing for the equipment, adhesives, racking systems, that sort of thing.”

Once the contractor submits the packet to CPS Energy, the City issues the permit and the install can proceed. “Of course the City will inspect the installation before we’ll interconnect,” said Haecker. Between the City and CPS Energy, some five inspectors handle the current load.

So far, CPS Energy has 18 residential systems, one commercial PV system and one solar hot water system installed, for a total of 93kW since the program was launched in 2007.

“We’re a small program now, but we’re gearing up for expansion,” said Haecker.


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