Guest post by Kath Johnson
People moving to Austin are often shocked when they get their first electric bill, especially in the summer when the air conditioner is continuously running. The average Austin home uses roughly 11,500 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity every year, costing an average of $1,130 a year. Fortunately, people in Austin are not only weird, they’re also thrifty and environmentally conscious. That’s why Austin provides some of the best neighborhoods in the country for fans of solar roofs.
This trending alternative protects the environment as well as the wallet.
Currently, Texas produces more renewable energy than any other state and most other countries. This is mostly due to the ambitious renewable energy goals set by the state legislature in 1999 and again in 2005. Our state has repeatedly surpassed these goals and set new ones, with individual cities following in the state’s footsteps.
The city of Austin has its own lofty goals, hoping to see massive growth in solar conversion. Solar power is a financially viable option for homeowners and energy companies alike. Unlike nonrenewable energy sources, which require constant payment for fuel sources, renewable energies like solar only require an initial investment.
Austin rooftops are perfect solar panels. According to Google’s Project Sunroof, nearly 85 percent of the metro area’s roofs (195,000 in total) can accommodate solar panels, and installing those panels would eliminate 2.7 million metric tons of carbon dioxide pollution from the atmosphere. (The roof must have room for four panels.)
And Austinites are rapidly working to cover their roofs in solar panels. For example, more than a third of the homeowners in Mueller have opted for solar power, increasing the value of the entire neighborhood.
While installing solar panels is a bit more challenging for local builders, some are offering little resistance when it comes to creating solar friendly homes. The Colorado Crossing neighborhood, for example, is Austin’s first all-solar community. Each house is custom built to include a rooftop solar system, helping the city meet its goal of generating 55 percent of its energy needs from renewable energy sources. Best of all, the solar roofs add nothing to the home purchase price.
Austin Energy is subsidizing and supporting thousands of residential, commercial, school, and municipal solar projects. Since sunshine is a prominent natural resource in our city, this non-depletable energy source could generate billions of dollars of new revenue to the state every year, and Austin has positioned itself to become a leader in this growth.
Critics argue that renewable energy can be inconsistent, putting people at the mercy of unpredictable weather patterns. However, these concerns should be alleviated because battery storage technology continues to improve exponentially year after year. Power can be collected on one of Austin’s many sunny days and used when the clouds and rain move in.
High Financial Return
Yes, the start-up cost is high, but when you consider solar tax incentives and rebates, you can recoup your initial investment is less than ten years. The average home solar installation in Austin can save you up to $17,900 over the course of 25 years. The price is also sure to come down as solar becomes more popular. Within a few years, solar could be almost as cheap as coal in powering the planet – without damaging the environment in the process.
Austin’s Next Steps
Austin’s mayor, Steve Adler, and city council share an optimistic outlook about the future of solar. They predict the power harnessing panels will one day be as standard as shingles. Maybe that’s why Austin provides some of the best neighborhood for fans of solar roofs. By converting one neighborhood at a time, perhaps we can inspire other communities around the country to work toward clean energy goals.
Kath Johnson is an eco-conscious home improvement writer. When she’s not tending to her organic vegetable garden, she can be found hiking and cycling.