1of2San Antonio ranks seventh among U.S. cities for the number of solar power installations, according to a study released Tuesday by Environment America, an advocacy group.Photo: William Luther /San Antonio Express-News
San Antonio ranks seventh among U.S. cities for the number of solar power installations, according to a study released Tuesday by Environment America, an advocacy group.
The study showed the generating capacity of solar panels atop San Antonio businesses, houses and apartment buildings grew to 187 megawatts in 2018, up from 161 megawatts the year before.
In the latest ranking, Los Angeles led total solar capacity, followed by San Diego, Phoenix, Honolulu and San Jose, Calif.
The number of households and businesses in San Antonio that use solar power is small, but it’s growing.
City-owned CPS Energy had 15,701 solar customers in its service area, which includes areas outside San Antonio, as of April 5. Those customers also use non-solar power because energy from the sun can be harassed around five hours a day.
CPS has more than 800,000 electricity customers and almost 350,000 natural gas customers.
Utility spokesman John Moreno said CPS added 3,036 new solar customers in 2017 within San Antonio city limits — the report only surveyed customer within the city — and another 3,013 new solar customers in 2018.
The Environment America study did not include most of CPS Energy’s own solar-power generation, which is located largely outside city limits. CPS generates about 20 percent of its power from alternative energy sources, such as solar and wind.
The organization’s Austin affiliate, Environment Texas, released the report at a press briefing at the Palm Heights Community Center, a youth recreation facility with a solar array on its roof.
CPS Chief Operating Officer Cris Eugster said more San Antonio customers are turning to solar — some even without rebates on solar panels provided by the utility.
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“We’re seeing more and more folks go solar for economic reasons, for environmental reasons,” he said. “And so this technology is transforming from an incentive-based technology to a market-based technology.”
Eugster touted CPS’s leadership in solar in Texas. The only other Texas city listed by Environment America was Austin, which ranked 15th for solar installation, with 50.6 megawatts.
“We are number one in the state of Texas — that’s something that all of us can be very pound of,” he said.
Its unclear what will happen to solar growth once a federal subsidy for installation expires — residential solar panels can cost thousands of dollars to install.
The federal tax credit remains at 30 percent of the cost of the system but drops to 26 percent in 2020 and 22 percent the following year. It’ll be eliminated for homeowners in 2022 while business will be able to deduct 10 percent of the cost of their solar systems from their taxes that year.
CPS, for its part, offers one-time rebates of up to $2500 per residential project for solar panels, plus an additional $500 for locally produced panels. But funding is limited.