From 2017 through 2022, residential solar has grown 646 percent. While small scale commercial solar has grown 221 percent.

March 7, 2024

As the George Harrison song goes: Here comes the sun!

Solar energy is on the rise in Texas, according to a new report released last month by the Environment Texas Research & Policy Center and the Frontier Group. The report states that Texas ranks third in the nation for residential solar power generation.

Luke Metzger, executive director of Environment Texas, summed it up in an email blast:

“Why pay for power from a distant plant spewing pollution when we can just soak up the sun on our rooftops?” he said.

Small solar projects — such as residences — deliver 10 times as much power as they did 10 years ago. 

The report points out the benefits of solar: 

1. Rooftop solar reduces dependence on fossil fuels.

2. It eases the strain on the grid during periods of high electric demand.

3. It reduces the amount of land needed to produce clean energy.

4. It is cost efficient.


Texas solar has taken off in the past five years, according to the report. From 2017 through 2022, residential solar has grown 646 percent. While small scale commercial solar has grown 221 percent. The report notes that in total, small-scale solar in Texas generated 2,995 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity in 2022.

However, the report notes Texas only ranks 20th per capita for small scale solar. There are several reasons for this. First of all Texas does not have a statewide solar incentive to encourage solar use. There also is a lack of net metering, which allows solar panel owners to be reimbursed when they export extra energy to the grid. In addition, Texas has poor interconnection standards. And finally Texas only ranks 20th per capita because of the state’s cumbersome municipal permitting processes. The report recommends new policies for greater growth.

In a recent Op-Ed piece in The Dallas Morning News, Brett Biggart, CEO of Freedom Solar Power, notes that Texas “already rewards crypto miners, manufacturers and other huge electricity users for cutting use when demand is high. Homeowners and business owners deserve the same incentives. They also deserve fair net-metering programs just as utilities pay big generators for electricity. Consumer-focused policies would give Texas the multifaceted reliability strategy that our future demands and would help Texans live more powerfully, cutting electricity bills and protecting people from blackouts.”


A number of Texas cities have made strides in solar energy.

The SolSmart program, funded by the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office, awards communities that have made it easier for homeowners to invest in solar. This is the result of these cities’ progress in permitting, planing, zoning, inspections, solar rights and construction codes. SolSmart rates the following solar-friendly Texas cities:

 • Austin (Gold Award)

 • Brownsville (Silver Award)

 • Cedar Hill (Gold Award)

• Corinth (Gold Award, Permitting and Inspection)

• Denton (Gold Award, Permitting and Inspection)

• El Paso (Gold Award)

• Kennedale (Silver Award)

• Lewisville (Bronze Award)

• Plano (Bronze Award)

• San Antonio (Silver Award)

• Smithville (Silver Award)

SolSmart notes that city managers must apply for this award. So if a city isn’t listed, it may just mean they haven’t applied for this program. They say that for example, Farmers Branch will power all of its municipal building with solar panels by 2024 and is considered a solar-friendly city, but they do not have any awards under this program. 

In addition, Environment America publishes The U.S. Shining Cities Report in which it tracks the installation of rooftop solar across the country. Their report is published every two years. Four Texas cities are featured in the Shining Cities Report. They are: San Antonio, Austin, Houston and Dallas.

Metzger says that currently Texas is only using 1.8 percent of its potential solar power, while California is using 10 percent. The report only covered solar energy in Texas. Readers can view solar results in other states by looking at the Solar Energy Industries Association’s website.


Metzger also adds that the recent discussion of Texas joining the national grid could be a good idea.

“We’re on an island here in Texas [having a state-only grid],” says Metzger. “It’s hard to import additional energy as we saw during Uri [the February 2021 ice storm].” He also notes that southeastern states have less energy potential. "We could help them if we were part of the national grid.” 

Metzer points to the Southern Spirit Transmission Project as an important next step. Developed by Pattern Energy, the project will provide access to affordable and reliable energy for customers in Texas and the Southeast. Construction begins this year with a target in service date of 2027.


The city of Dallas has taken note of the increased interest in solar energy and recently has hosted two town halls on the subject, one in person and virtual. Carlos Evans, director of the Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability, reports that the city of Dallas has installed solar systems on several city facilities, including the Vickery Park Branch Library, Dallas West Branch Library and Fretz Recreation Center, as well as others.

In addition, he says the city’s Building Services Department has initiated a resilience hub pilot project at Bachman Recreation Center to demonstrate resilience using solar PV and battery energy storage during loss of power in inclement weather conditions. 

Evans says his office has partnered with the nonprofit, Solar United Neighbors to launch Solar Switch Dallas

“Solar Switch Dallas,” he explains, “leverages the power of group buying and nonprofit Solar United Neighbors’ expertise to ensure participants purchase a quality system at a competitive price. Many homeowners looking into solar have reported having ‘purchasing anxiety’ from being overwhelmed by the number of options, costs and misleading information. Solar Switch aims to reduce confusion by providing vendor-neutral resources and expert advice at every step of the process.”

Solar Switch, he says, vets solar installers to make sure they are qualified to bid on the group. Factors include product quality, warranties, company financial stability and history of customer satisfaction. 

“Once qualified,” says Evans, “installers compete in a reverse auction that results in a competitively priced solar package for participants. In the 2023 Solar Switch Dallas session, residents who accepted the installation offer save about $6,030 on a rooftop solar energy system.”

It’s also important to note, he says, that the Solar Switch group discount and federal clean energy incentives make solar more accessible. 

“The program helps participants learn about the federal solar investment tax credit for residential solar, which could save homeowners 30 percent on their total system cost. A similar tax credit is also available for small businesses. Oncor also has an incentive program for residential solar installations and battery storage.


Buyers need to be smart when purchasing solar panels says Metzger, who has had solar panels on his Austin home for the past four years. His best advice is to make sure the company is Better-Business certified; be weary of high-pressure salesmen and make sure to get multiple bids. Panels should be positioned on the south and southwest side of a home.

Larry Howe is the co-founder of Plano Solar Advocates and a member of North Texas Renewable Energy Group. He believes this is a good time to invest in solar. However, it’s key that you educate yourself before making any purchase.

First, get a handle on your annual energy consumption. Most people know what they pay each month, but many do not know how many kilowatt hours (kWh) they use. “Determine your average energy usage. For example if you use 1000 kWh a month, your annual usage is 12,000 kWh.”

Second, make sure your house is oriented correctly and consider the age of your roof. As an initial estimate for the size of your system, consider a size that would offset 50 percent of annual usage and then discuss with potential installers why you might go bigger or smaller.

Third, get several quotes. Consider where you live — are you in a city or in a rural area? 

“In North Texas, most of us are in a deregulated market where you can choose a retail electricity provider and rate plan, but places like Denton and Garland have municipal electricity utilities with limited rate plans.”

Howe says he got into solar back in 2013 when he and other volunteers started Plano Solar Advocates. They helped organize group solar purchases in Plano after learning from other nonprofits across the country. One of the nonprofits they learned from is SUN which has expanded to Texas and is helping folks all across the state. Back in 2013 and 2014, PSA held held “Solar 101” sessions to educate homeowners. Then PSA helped put together a request for a proposal (RFP) to several companies for bids. Participants of the group purchase then reviewed all the bids and selected  the installer for the group. 

“PSA was one of the first in Texas to organize residential solar group purchases, but today is a big supporter of SUN’s solar co-op group projects in North Texas,” says Howe. “The group purchase concept is: you are not going it alone. We will help you.” 

The selected installer who ultimately gets the bid will be able to schedule several installations at at time, enabling the company to stage the equipment and get the permitting done for multiple projects — a savings for the installer that is then shared with the homeowner. 

“If a homeowner is not going solar by a group purchase, it’s important to check references and get multiple bids themselves,” says Howe.

Location of a home’s solar panel is important, says Howe. 

“They should be on the south or southwest side of the house,” he says, for optimum annual production. “You want to face south if you are located in the northern hemisphere and have your panels titled at the angle of your latitude. If you face the panels east or west, solar production is only 82-83 percent; and if facing north, production is only 50 percent. Also, you harness more energy in the summer when the sun at noon is directly overhead, than in the winter.”

Avoid high pressure door-to-door salesmen who prey on homeowners who are not educated on solar. Stories abound in publications from Time magazine to The Dallas Morning News on unsavory salesmen who take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. As Howe says, “if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

For more on Howe and his solar journey, check out his blog posts at

And to keep up to date on the latest on solar energy in Texas, check out the Texas Solar Energy Society, a nonprofit that pursues solutions for all Texas to embrace solar energy as part of a 100 percent clean energy future. 

This article is part of a new series expanding GSDFW's coverage state-wide.


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