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Arlington, TX 76010

817-841-9632

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Solar Industry Insights –The Ugly: Solar Scammers

It’s never fun to feel like you got the bad end of a deal. Solar, when done correctly, is cost-efficient and saves you money. The install process should take roughly two (for experienced installers with no delays or odd tile configurations) to four (for newer companies, or complicated project layouts) months to complete – from signing the contract, to installation and interconnection (exception: see Houston city limits which has a longer PTO time-frame than other Texas cities). Anything outside of this, is either an exception or a scam. Unfortunately, scammers don’t always tell you when they’re planning to scam you, and mistakes do happen, but here are a few things to look out for: 1) how does the salesperson act during your consultation? What can they tell you about other solar companies in the area – and how do they compare? Are they making promises you know they can’t keep (example: some utilities have a monthly interconnection fee for connecting to the grid, so if you’re promised a 100% bill offset, you should consider how your utility company operates to see whether this is feasible – even though solar absolutely can and will save customers money – in most cases, a 100% bill swap is not a reasonable expectation). What do they know about the installation process? Perhaps they’re new and still learning the operations side of the business, but a good solar company will ensure that their staff is willing and able to answer questions about a solar install, because it will take time and will require your signature along the way (see HOA approvals, as one example). If you’re left feeling confident that they’re able to answer your questions, have good examples of their companies’ market differentiation, and can answer some basic questions about the installation process (or at least are willing/able to look into it and get you a quick answer back), then chances are – you’re in good hands!  

What do you do however when you’ve met with the recommended minimum of three companies, all of which had similar pricing and panel efficiency, and you’re still not sure who to choose? Of course you should check out their online reviews, their website, BBB profile, etcetera – but you can also just try calling their main line. Who answers? How long does it take to get a call back if no one is available? These are fantastic indicators of a good company because it will give you insight into being their customer – if they don’t get back to you now, chances are they’re going to take their time answering your questions even after you sign on the dotted line, which could have implications about how they operate behind the scenes.

Beware of copy cats! Recently we had an issue with a customer, who said they had hired SUNTEX to install their project however it wasn’t us! Unfortunately given the nature of this industry, this happens more often than you’d think – and I’ve already experienced it at at least two solar companies I’ve worked with in the past two years. Copy cats hurt our business, hurt our industry, and most importantly, hurt our customers, so it’s absolutely something we try to avoid whenever possible. The best way to mitigate this, is to simply explain the differences in our two companies and continue to provide excellent customer service to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace for our customers. If you come across one of these companies, please do your due diligence before purchasing a system! Solar companies that are worth their salt will be communicative – and it’s no lie to admit they will compete for your business – but they will also understand that you need to explore all of your options before signing up, and be willing to answer your questions before you do! Have questions for us, give us a call today and test it out for yourself!

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Solar Industry Insights – The Bad: What Solar Companies Don’t Want you to Know

These days it’s easy to accidentally give your information to someone or some company without ever meaning to do so, and you don’t necessarily have to send money to any foreign prince to be part of an internet scam. Lucky for consumers, there have been some recent data protection laws passed in the United States allowing people to choose which apps track their data and/or share it across other platforms. There are always loopholes however, and some companies within the solar industry are not so forthcoming about what they intend to do with your information.

One example of this type of data breech occurs in the solar industry on ads or websites that ask you to fill out information to receive a free quote. When you enter your information into one of these sites, you’ll inevitably end up at a screen that just says “companies will contact you to provide a quote” because it’s not in their best interest to give you a straight-forward proposal – instead, these companies sell your data to three (or more) solar companies who then contact you to set up an appointment to get the free quote. In some cases, this goes smoothly and you’re able to meet with and compare reputable companies in your area – in other cases however, your phone number and contact information will get sold to multiple solar companies that will call you over and over again until you agree to an appointment, or ask to be placed on their “no call list.” There may still be plenty of good information on their website about the cost of solar, or what things to look out for – just don’t enter your phone number on their website unless you’d like to be contacted.

While many people don’t like door-to-door agents, the truth is that solar companies that have at least some component of door-to-door salesman are doing a few things right, namely, not selling your data to others – but they’re also able to employ younger, less-experienced staff who can get on-the-job training and improve their knowledge of the solar industry as they do.

In reality, if you haven’t come across anyone in your neighborhood, I’d recommend spending just a little bit of time researching solar companies in your area, and then ask them to provide you with a quote directly – they’ll be more than happy to supply you with one, and won’t have any incentive to share your information to other competitors. Consultations should take about 45 minutes due to the complexity and customization of these home-improvement projects, and is well worth spending the time to sit down with someone to answer your questions before you move forward. You’ll want to look for the best products (see our blog post on solar panel efficiency for a quick read on what this should look like), at the best price (it’s recommended that you get at least three quotes to compare), and with superior customer service – which you can decide for yourself based on your own personal preferences and needs (but you should also check out their online reviews and ask for references when needed – good companies will always have a few happy customers willing to talk about their experience).

The moral of the story is, don’t sign up for a free quote on a generic solar site – ask for one from companies directly to avoid a data breech, or getting hounded by phone calls. Be nice to door-knockers, they’re actually doing the industry a big favor by learning the right way to approach customers and starting from the ground up – not to mention if they’re door knocking in Texas, they’re clearly willing to put in the time and effort to engage with homeowners in one of the hottest places on earth! Finally, if you do find yourself in a situation where you’re getting hounded by different companies, ask to be added to their “do not call” list and they cannot contact you again – you can always call them back, and remove your name from the list should you decide you do want a quote from said company. If you still have questions about how this works, the price of solar, or how to get a quote, contact us directly today: https://suntexllc.com/contact-us/! We’re happy to help you answer questions as you do your research on going solar.

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Solar Industry: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

This week we focus on the Solar industry in Texas, and the players shaping that industry. As an insider, I can tell you there is a lot going on behind the scenes, both good and bad, but there are always signs pointing to which companies are doing things right, and which are cutting corners.

To start things off on a positive note, let’s take a look atThe Good”. One of the more obvious benefits of solar companies is their dedication to reducing greenhouse gases. Thus far, while Texas leads the nation in wind energy production, they have been trailing behind California in solar production for years – and one thing any Texan knows, is that there is plenty of sunshine in this state! According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Texas produces 15 GW of utility-scale solar energy, and “Texas will add 10 gigawatts (GW) of utility-scale solar capacity by the end of 2022” (See full report here: https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=47636). None of this would be possible without solar companies, particularly those that have been installing solar for some time now and have thus positioned themselves perfectly for this moment. The report continues to further outline solar production capacity in Texas based on 2020 rates, saying “The installation of 2.5 GW of solar capacity in 2020 marked the beginning of the solar boom in Texas. We expect the state to add another 4.6 GW of solar capacity in 2021 and 5.4 GW in 2022, which will bring total installed solar capacity in Texas to 14.9 GW.” The Good 

With this increase in solar energy capacity, the state will be primed to tackle the climate crisis head-on, and hopefully our leadership will further this initiative allowing home-owners to go solar with little overall cost. This is where we review benefit #2 of solar energy companies: lobbying power. In 2021, immediately following the winter storm that killed somewhere between 150-700+ Texas residents, wind and solar energy came under pressure by the state legislature, which was already working to increase distribution costs of going solar via SB03, SB1278, and HB4466. Of the three of these bills, only one passed (SB03), which solar companies get at least partial credit for, since they banded together to stop them. Until we have a higher solar adoption rate, incentives for home owners should continue (and in my humble opinion, increase) so that home owners aren’t bearing the brunt of the climate crisis in both fiscal and environmental costs, as they are now. Thanks to solar companies, you might not have to – though calling your elected representatives to let them know this is something you care about never hurts.

One huge win that solar companies have enabled, and which is a large reason most homeowners “go solar,” is the decrease in the overall cost of solar technology. Looking at an article produced by Energy Sage, it’s easy to see that the overall efficiency of solar cells has increased drastically – from when they were first introduced, and were only ~6% efficient, to today’s panels which are anywhere from 18-24% efficient (which produces more than enough electricity for your home, though they’re steadily increasing in efficiency each year). This translates to needing fewer panels to achieve the same energy output, and a more efficient system overall – greatly reducing the overall cost of going solar. Check out the graph from energysage.com to see what I mean (directly below; https://news.energysage.com/solar-panel-efficiency-cost-over-time/).

Solar Industry Data - Panel Efficiency

The article goes even further to outline this incredible cost savings, in outlining the cost per watt of an average solar-panel system just 10 years ago, in comparison to cost per watt of solar panel systems today – “Over a decade ago, in 2009, the cost of a solar panel installation was $8.50 per watt. The solar industry today looks very different: in addition to solar panel efficiency increasing dramatically, solar panel producers have significantly improved their manufacturing processes. Solar installers, too, can deploy solar PV across the United States more efficiently now than they could ten years ago. The result: the price of solar has fallen dramatically, to just $2.81/watt” (https://news.energysage.com/solar-panel-efficiency-cost-over-time/). Of course those of us that are aware of the term “economies of scale” are likely aware that this business phenomenon must occur in successful industries in order to continue, however I think a huge thank you also goes to all of you! Customers and early adopters who have gone solar before this year are owed a huge debt of gratitude for supporting solar companies in this endeavor to improve the cost and efficiency of solar and supportive technologies (see micro-inverters).

Last but not least, one of the best things about solar companies is their customer service (and because there are so many solar companies in Texas, if you get bad service from one, you can and should switch to another since there are plenty of companies working hard to go above and beyond for their customers). Because of the high cost of solar projects, and due to the unique energy needs of each customer, solar companies often still meet homeowners in their homes to discuss their custom project before any decisions are made. You’ll need an electrician to sign off on your project (at a minimum, because you should also have an engineer design your solar system for maximum efficiency and to reduce the time spent going back and forth with your city and utility companies during the permitting and interconnection processes), so the beauty in this complex process is that most solar companies provide all of this for you! Though some are better communicators than others, every solar company that has successfully installed a solar project (and actively monitors your solar production data), has completed these steps on your behalf, meaning less leg-work for you to complete to get your project installed. So, if you encounter a “door-knocker” in the solar industry, know that they are there to communicate this process, and set up a time to complete a custom report (based on your energy bill) so you’re able to get all of your questions answered in an efficient manner! They’re not there just to talk your ear off, or ruin your Saturday. You’ll likely need to set up a time for an energy consultant to come back over to your home to discuss your specific proposal – a level of customer service not seen in many other industries these days. When is the last time your doctor made a house call?

There are plenty of fabulous players in the solar game, the trick is finding the right one for you. Look for a company with a few years of experience, or with several installations to point to – and if their sales pitch is too pushy, kindly tell them no thank you, and look for another. Best of luck!

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Happy Fourth of July!

Happy Fourth folks! Summer has officially begun. Though in Texas we’ve been celebrating the start of summer since long before the summer solstice officially began, there is just something about the Independence Day holiday weekend that seems to solidify our desire for outdoor grilling and water sports. So grab your apron, make sure the super-soakers are filled (and hidden from the sun), and go enjoy the holiday weekend – you’ve earned it! Not to mention, what a year it’s been. This year we’ve been tested in ways many of us never even fathomed – between COVID-19 to power outages during the Winter Ice Storm – I think it’s safe to say we’re due for a win. Thanks to the incredible efforts by nurses, doctors, and scientists within the healthcare industry over the past year, we’re finally able to meet up again with loved ones to celebrate the holidays, and I could not be more grateful to them. Whether you’re grilling outside, or planning to shoot off fireworks this evening, we wish you a Safe and Happy Fourth of July! If you have more ideas/suggestions for summer celebrations/activities, be sure to add your comments below – just don’t forget the sunscreen!

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Texas Renewable Energy Industries Alliance (TREIA)

While they’re not exactly part of the same alliance, TREIA is like SEIA for Texans, and works with renewable companies that specialize in advocacy and building a diverse network within the Lone Star State. TREIA is somewhat unique from the other associations named in this week’s blog, in that it does not focus solely on solar but also includes other renewable sources like wind and hydro – which makes this group an excellent resource to learn about what’s going on in the Texas renewable energy market overall. According to their homepage, “TREIA is a network of diverse entities with interests in renewable energy who are working to scale renewable energy, grow the local economy, and create jobs. Members connect through conferences, in-person events, and business development networking opportunities. TREIA members are involved in solar, wind, biomass, biofuel, energy efficiency, geothermal, hydro, ocean, and energy storage” (http://conservenorthtexas.org/item/texas-renewable-energy-industries-alliance-treia), and having attended one of their seminars previously, I can tell you first-hand that their members have a deep knowledge of the inner-workings of the renewable industry. If you check out their site, as well as their LinkedIn page, you’ll see that they’ve set a pretty ambitious goal for at least 50% of the Texas energy demand to come from renewable sources by 2030 – less than a decade away! Thanks to our knowledge of the Department of Energy website (and corresponding U.S. Energy Information Administration database), we can see just how close we are to accomplishing that goal, and while this data is a little older (2019 is the latest displayed), we can see there’s still a long way to go – see for yourself here: https://www.eia.gov/state/?sid=TX.

Thanks to associations like TREIA however, and their many members, we’re a lot closer to the goal of having 50% of our energy come from renewable sources by 2030, and hopefully with your help we can get there. Check out their website for more information about TREIA, their members, or give us a call today!

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Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA)

If you enjoyed learning more about the global solar industry via the International Solar Energy Society webpage, you’re going to like our next featured group: the Solar Energy Industries Association, or SEIA (https://www.seia.org/ ).

What does SEIA do? Well, according to their ‘Advocacy’ page, “SEIA is the voice of the solar industry, advocating for the protection and expansion of the U.S. solar market. We represent the entire industry, from small-business owners to large, publicly traded companies. Along with our members and coalitions of allies, we advocate on behalf of solar and a transition to a clean energy economy at the federal, state, and local levels.” Because of their vast member network, they’re able to cover a wide range of topics relating to renewable energy, and are not limited to simply energy data (though they also produce charts/infographics/webinars to help), but are also able to better explain what financing options may be available to those hoping to diversify their energy production, discuss tax laws and how they apply to each system (residential and commercial), and break down the knowledge barriers to learning about the newest technology in renewable energy and how it will improve the overall effectiveness of each system.

As if this weren’t an extensive enough list, SEIA has partnered with the Smart Electric Power Alliance and other partner orgs to put on one of the largest solar conferences in the U.S. – Solar Power Intnernational (SPI), https://www.solarpowerinternational.com/. Every year thousands of energy industry experts gather to share the latest knowledge, gain insights into the energy industry, and to build their network of energy professionals at SPI – including small and big businesses, researchers and manufacturers alike. For more details about the incredible work SEIA is doing, check them out here: https://www.seia.org/initiatives-advocacy.

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International Solar Energy Society (ISES)

A couple of years ago I went to an energy conference where I met someone from the International Solar Energy Society, or ISES (https://www.ises.org/ ), who gave a talk on the global reach of solar power, and our collective role in promoting it and helping others do so. After his talk I approached him to thank him for the work they were doing, but also to ask him about the origin of their acronym which, I hate to admit, had been bugging me ever since I heard him say it. He laughed, as this was not the first time someone had asked him this question, and then assured me that the International Solar Energy Society had been around for a long time (60+ years in fact), and was in no way related to the group that seemed to share, at least phonetically, a similar acronym. 

I was interested to learn more about how they were building their network of renewable energy providers, and what work they were doing to promote solar energy solutions at the international level. Upon doing just a little research online, I found that their vision for solar is pretty similar to ours: “For over 60 years the members of The International Solar Energy Society (ISES)have undertaken the product research that has helped the renewable energy industry to grow. ISES, through its knowledge sharing and community building programs, helps its global membership provide the technical answers to accelerate the transformation to 100% renewable energy and thereby achieve the following vision: The International Solar Energy Society (ISES) envisions a world with 100% renewable energy for everyone used wisely and efficiently” (https://www.ises.org/who-we-are/about-ises). So, their vision for solar answers the “what” question, but if you look further down on this same page you’ll find information about “how” they are currently working to accomplish this through advocacy: “ISES has members in more than 110 countries, and Global contacts and partners in over 50 countries with thousands of associate members, and almost 100 company and institutional members throughout the world.” In addition to making global connections, they provide information and presentations at seminars, and publish source material, webinars, and info-graphics dispelling myths about solar power (check out a few here: https://www.ises.org/what-we-do/dispelling-myths). Curious to learn more about solar? Feel free to check out other links within their website for some helpful tidbits!

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Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Would you rather be a rule maker or a rule breaker? When mom made you clean your room as a kid, did you remember to thank her for instilling responsibility in you then? No way!

Of course, government agencies with a regulatory & compliance emphasis seem to evoke the same dare-devil reactions that we felt as kids. “Rules are meant to be broken” as the saying goes – but what about the rules of nature?

The Environmental Protection Agency has caught a bad reputation in recent years, and to be fair there are some critics who suggest the agency could do more to protect the environment and Earth’s natural resources. According to https://www.facilitiesnet.com/green/article/The-Roles-of-EPA-and-DOE-in-Environmental-Legislation—11549, “Most experts agree that EPA regulation will not have the same effect on overall emissions reduction as Congressional action could. One reason is that EPA regulation would not come with the financial incentives for emissions reduction” and because the EPA does not fill a traditional cabinet role (with exception to the Director), there is some merit to this argument. The power of the EPA is subject to whichever political party holds office, which can mean different levels of enforcement. 

With climate change already impacting our California forests, Gulf coast beaches, and causing sweltering heat in the Mid-West and Pacific Northwest, there needs to be some consistency or else we may face an even larger uphill climb in combating climate change and it’s impact to our way of life.

So what does the EPA actually do then? See for yourself, here – https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations – I recommend checking out this section at the bottom of the landing page to start:

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Department of Energy (DOE)

At the intersection of local and global climate information – from smaller-scale projects to foreign policy decisions – is the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Because they’re in charge of writing the micro and macro energy policies for the entire country – in coordination with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA (https://www.energystar.gov/ia/partners/downloads/mou/Summary_of_EPA-DOE_Partnership.pdf) – it would stand to reason that their online repository is a vast resource of information, and a great place to conduct your own research on what may be coming down the pipeline in the near future, or down the utility cable in this case (check it out here: https://www.energy.gov/). The most important information this site provides however, is insight into the U.S. energy budget, which more than words demonstrate just where environmental protection falls on the priority list. For example, if you check out the Energy Economy page, and scroll to the Funding & Financing tab, you’ll find a ton of potential resources for small business loans, large-scale utility grants, research grants for scientists and universities, and everything in between. Curious about our current national energy production? Check out the following link, which breaks down the data by energy source and/or global location: https://www.energy.gov/energy-economy/prices-trends. It’s safe to say there is a lot of good information on this site for contractors, scientists, and anyone with a curious eye towards the future. What’s something you’d like to see on this site in the future? Let’s discuss in the comments below!

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Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE)

In all honesty, unless you’re an industry professional, or are currently working on a related project, the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, or DSIRE as it is also known, might be a little robust for what you need – but that’s exactly the appeal as well. This platform houses the country’s entire online database for renewable incentives in the U.S., broken down by state, and further filtered down to the city/county level. Just take a look at the table at the bottom of this page: https://programs.dsireusa.org/system/program/tx for more information about energy rebates and efficiency incentives in Texas.

If you’re in the Dallas area, you’re probably aware that ONCOR has a solar rebate program, however if you click on the ONCOR rebate link within the DSIRE portal, and read through the page, you’ll see information about program eligibility as well as the key changes to the program year after year. If you’re in Austin, you can learn more about the Value of Solar rate and how it differs from a traditional net metering program. If you’re in San Antonio you can learn more about how CPS is implementing their renewable rebate program – which has helped thousands of home owners in the San Antonio area save money going solar.

No matter where you are in the United States, chances are there is help available for you – check out this link, and the others on this list and you’re sure to find at least one or two options – and feel free to give us a call if you have any questions!

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