Plano is a bustling community just north of Dallas, Texas. For the past several years, a group of its citizens who call themselves the Plano Solar Advocates (PSA) have been educating local residents and businesses about the advantages of rooftop solar power. Now they have launched a new program they call Go Solar At Home to bring property owners together with qualified solar contractors.
“The energy is produced locally, so it’s more efficient than transmitting it miles,” said Larry Howe, Plano Solar Advocates volunteer, told the Plano Star Courier recently. He also says it is the one means of generating electricity that doesn’t require water for cooling purposes. In an area like Texas where water shortages are common, that’s an important consideration. Howe says once people learn how much money they can save on their utility bills, interest in solar power goes way up.
The PSA program is based on the success of a similar organization in San Antonio called Bring Solar Home, which says it is responsible for 150 rooftop solar installations in that city since December, 2013. “What we’re trying to do is build on their success,” Howe says. “It’s not overly complicated, but it’s not straightforward.”
The PSA works with the city and its Live Green in Plano initiative. So far, several residents have signed up for rooftop solar systems, thanks to PSA’s outreach and education program. “Because you can never know what the long-term price of electricity will be … if [residents] can cut in half their electricity cost, they’ve kind of prepaid some of their energy consumption,” Howe said. “We just kind of kicked it off. We’re collaborating with the city of Plano, trying to help get the word out.”
Not all communities are so excited about rooftop solar power. Nearby North Richland Hills has enacted a local ordinance restricting the installation of solar panels on local homes. Violators are subject to a fine of $2000. Officials in North Richland Hills are concerned about the aesthetics of solar panels. They think all those photovoltaic panels generating all that lovely renewable energy are ugly.
Across the country, solar panels are often a subject of controversy. Many home owner associations have an outright ban on them or place unreasonable restrictions on their placement. That shouldn’t be surprising; people were afraid of automobiles at the beginning of the last century, too. But thanks to the work of dedicated volunteers like Larry Howe and Plano Solar Advocates, those negative attitudes are beginning to change.