For the longest time, the sole epicenter of solar energy activity in Texas was Austin. A highly evolved solar community putting (relentless) pressure on its local utility, Austin Energy (AE), provided the perfect environment for solar to flourish. And flourish it did. Home of the first green building program (1993), the largest solar rebate program in the U.S. ($4.50/watt at the time, in 2003), the first solar courses at Austin Community College in 2006, and a Solar America City designation in 2007. Today, AE supports more than 1,000 customer-owned solar energy systems, 70 commercial projects, 24 municipal projects, 28 school installations, and six libraries, when combined, produce more than 4 MW of generation capacity. Oh…and more than 35 new solar installation companies have developed in Austin, creating some 300 clean energy jobs.
But travel south on IH 35 for 80 miles and you’re in another highly evolved solar community with a municipal utility (City Public Service), with another relentless group of people with big solar plans. Welcome to San Antonio–or rather, Solar San Antonio.
Founded in 1999 by octogenerian, Bill Sinkin (he just celebrated his 97th in May), SSA’s been moving unbelievably, astoundlingly fast. In fact, Bill had one of San Antonio’s first solar installations on the rooftop of his bank (back in the 1980’s). Bill tapped some of South Texas’ region’s smartest and talented and in just a decade, San Antonio has emerged with some serious solar street cred. In 2008, San Antonio became a Solar America City (and hosted the 2nd Solar America City conference in 2009). It’s hosted Solar Homes Tours and Festivals, workshops, conferences. The list of Bill’s achievements for creating successful (solar) communities goes on for pages. Solar has no better friend in South Texas than Bill Sinkin.
So it’s not all that surprising that Solar San Antonio, under the leadership of Lanny Sinkin (he’s Bill’s son), has launched the Bring Solar Home campaign to make installing solar energy…easy. “Our staff has worked with San Antonio Credit Union and other financial institutions to pioneer new solar lending models,” says Lanny Sinkin, Executive Director of Solar San Antonio. The campaign will include a variety of print, outdoor, radio, and television ads to encourage the community to contact Solar San Antonio at a dedicated campaign phone number, (210) 22-SOLAR, and Bring Solar Home website.
For most of us, the largest barrier to installing solar energy (has been), and still is, the large up-front costs and a lack of easy-to-understand information. “With financial models developed for the Bring Solar Home campaign,” says Sinkin, “we hope to bridge the gap between residents and industry professionals, and increase the number of solar installations in our community.” With financial models developed for the Bring Solar Home campaign, net solar installation prices are expected to be between $20/month to $50/month, all in a three-step process, from application to installation.
Solar San Antonio staff will gather preliminary information to determine what solar product might work best for the homeowner. This information will then be given to three solar installation companies to follow-up with bids. Campaign staff will monitor the entire process to ensure quality and a good experience for the homeowner, solar installer, CPS Energy, and financial institutions.
Where do I sign up?
Because the big players–CPS, San Antonio Credit Union, Wells Fargo, are involved, the potential for success is high. For those of us in the IH35 corridor and the region, a little friendly solar competition is a good thing (is it OK that I’ve got a Solar San Antonio envy?) There are lots of reasons to smile big about this one.
Congratulations, SSA, for the innovation, and for Bringing (more) Solar Home to Texas.
P.S. Email from Lanny Sinkin, 9/9/10: “Just a note to say that we had a great launch to the campaign and had about 125 requests from people wanting to go solar in the first 24 hours.”