Wednesday, September 8, 2010
By Tracy Idell Hamilton
San Antonio Express-News
After factoring in rebates and tax credits, a homeowner's loan payments could be less than $100 a month for installing 5 kilowatts of solar power — power that would knock nearly $60 off a monthly utility bill, according to figures Tuesday provided by Solar San Antonio and the San Antonio Federal Credit Union.
That's affordable for a lot of people who want to go solar, and it's the message San Antonians will see and hear as part of Solar San Antonio's Bring Solar Home campaign, which launched Tuesday.
Forty percent of people in San Antonio polled by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory — done as part of San Antonio's designation as a Solar America City in 2008 — said they would be interested in going solar, but that high upfront costs kept them from doing so.
SACU has committed $2 million for financing "green" loans, said Chuck Smith, senior vice president of lending for the credit union.
"And if we need more, we'll get more," he said.
"Two million dollars is ringing in my ears," said Bill Sinkin, the 97-year-old founder of Solar San Antonio, who recalled the advocacy group's early days, when he pulled together a carpenter, a plumber and an electrician to figure out how to make solar work on local rooftops.
A 5-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system can cost as little as $4.75 per watt to install, or $23,750, according to Solar San Antonio.
Interest rates could range from 5.75 percent to 6.75 percent, depending on the terms of the loan. An $11,875 CPS Energy rebate and $3,562.50 federal tax credit would offset more than half the total cost.
Adding solar does more than just benefit the homeowners who make the investment, noted Mayor Julián Castro. It also creates jobs, helping move San Antonio closer to the clean energy economy he and other local leaders hope to foster.
It also would mark the beginning of a distributed energy system that turns buildings into power plants, feeding the electric grid and reducing peak demand, a move that should save all ratepayers money.
"We believe the time for solar is now," said Cris Eugster, chief sustainability officer for CPS Energy.
CPS already has invested in the largest solar farm in the state, the Blue Wing project, plus $10 million for its Solartricity program, which pays for power created by mid-sized solar systems on business rooftops.
"Bring Solar Home," Eugster said, "really pulls it all together."
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