3 Solar Adoption Obstacles in The Woodlands, Texas
March 8, 2023
By Bret Biggart
Last month, I shared a customer’s story about why her family turned to solar power after the 2021 winter freeze — and how solar and storage kept their lights on through this year’s ice storm.
The story is becoming more and more common, especially as Texas’ weather grows more extreme (see this Texas 2036 report for just one example) and Texans look to live more powerfully. That’s a big reason why the state needs to focus on customer-centered solutions — things that fortify Texas’ grid and save Texans money — as leaders rethink the electric system.
Those solutions should include policies that lower some of the barriers to solar power. The Woodlands, as the Houston Chronicle recently reported, demonstrates how those barriers can take shape.
It boils down to three B’s: bureaucracy, big business, and backyards.
HOA Bureaucracy Sets Strict Parameters for Home Solar Projects
Some residents have to jump through more bureaucratic hoops — due to rules and processes created by homeowners associations — before they can put solar panels on their roofs.
In The Woodlands, a Developmental Standards Committee has strict parameters for solar projects allowed on houses. The committee said it’s never blocked a solar installation, “but rather has implemented reasonable standards and conditions for installations,” according to the Chronicle.
That sounds right to me — I mentioned to the reporter that I haven’t seen the Committee, or Woodlands regulations generally, make it too difficult to install solar. But some associations are much more strict, and these kinds of rules clearly slow down what homeowners can do with their property.
The state could make solar more attainable for customers — and fortify Texas’ grid in the process — simply by making it easier for homeowners to install panels on their own property.
Big Business (specifically Utility Companies)
Some big utility companies also needlessly slow down Texans’ solar installations.
Entergy supplies electricity to most of The Woodlands. As I told the Chronicle, Entergy is known in our industry for being a little less solar-friendly than some of its competitors.
But it’s not the only one — not by a longshot. I wrote last year about barriers that CenterPoint put up forcing homeowners to wait six months before their installed solar panels could be activated.
There’s a clear role for the legislature here. The state should streamline rules and processes to protect homeowners and their investments. And it’s past time for some utilities to take a 21st century approach to solar power.
Tree Cover in The Woodlands Reduces Solar Installation Effectiveness
Lots of tree cover means lots of shade, which can make it harder to effectively install solar. That’s obviously an issue in communities like The Woodlands, where tree cover is a big part of the attraction.
But solar should still be explored by homeowners in shady neighborhoods. Companies like Freedom Solar work closely with homeowners to find the best spots to install panels without disrupting the landscape.
And as the story notes, Texas gets so much sun that it’s tough to find a neighborhood where solar power is unworkable, especially as solar panels get more and more efficient.
Solar power’s only getting more popular. It keeps people free and safe from high bills and blackouts. And legislation passed by Congress last year created an unprecedented runway for homeowners and solar developers.
I’m confident that the solar boom will find its way to The Woodlands. It makes too much sense — especially just outside the Energy Capital of the World.