A residential house with installed solar panels on the cities East side. Photo by Scott Ball.
An Eastside home's roof features installed solar panels. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

CPS Energy will extend its rebate to customers who install their own solar panels, utility officials announced in a Monday meeting during which its board also approved a deal to buy a former go-kart track on the city’s Northwest side.

CPS Energy will allocate another $15 million to its decade-old solar rebate program, CPS Senior Manager Rick Luna said. The rebate will remain at 60 cents per watt of installed solar capacity.

The rebate will likely last 12 to 15 months after the current portion of funding runs out by late March or early April, he said.

The municipally owned electricity and gas utility has been steadily growing its customers’ use of solar energy, especially under its $849 million Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan.

Besides the rebate, CPS Energy also leases roof space from customers through its SolarHost program and is planning another project where customers can purchase panels at a centralized location, which it calls Roofless or Community solar.

CPS Energy started offering rebates in 2007 at $3 per watt, ratcheting down the rate as the solar industry grew and the cost of installation declined.

Now, 11,240 customers in the utility’s territory have installed their own solar panels, 3,200 of them in 2017, Luna told the board.

Luna also talked about the rebate’s role in growing and sustaining the local solar industry.

“We feel like there’s a job creation component to that,” he said.

CPS Energy now counts 61 registered installers, 46 of them with local offices, that support around 700 jobs total, according to data Luna shared with the board.

On top of the 60-cents-per-watt rebate, CPS Energy will also continue offering 10 cents per watt to customers who install locally made components from Mission Solar Energy, based in San Antonio but owned by South Korea-based parent OCI Company.

The current program offers 8 cents per watt to customers who use Mission Solar modules and the remaining 2 cents per watt for installing inverters from KACO, a German manufacturer with its North American headquarters in San Antonio.

No customers applied for the KACO rebate, so CPS Energy will begin giving all 10 cents per watt to customers who install Mission Solar modules under the new rebate program, Luna said.

Also at the meeting, CPS Energy’s board of trustees approved a $6.8 million purchase of the Malibu Grand Prix and Castle, a former go-kart race track near the interchange of Interstate 10 and Loop 410 on the city’s Northwest side.

The business also included miniature golf, bumper boats, batting cages, rock climbing, and an arcade. It closed in 2015.

The utility will convert the site into a work center that consolidates employees now spread across three sites, said John Benedict, CPS Energy vice president of real estate and master planning.

“We’ll put them in a location where they can more easily reach customers,” he said, adding that the I-10 and Loop 410 interchange is at the center of the utility’s service territory.

CPS Energy will purchase the property from Real Tex Venture Capital, Benedict said. Real Tex is a limited partnership controlled by Arlington-based RTV Management, state records show.

Benedict did not specify which three centers will be moved to the former Malibu site, saying “we have to announce this to our groups first.”

Avatar photo

Brendan Gibbons

Brendan Gibbons is a former senior reporter at the San Antonio Report. He is an environmental journalist for Oil & Gas Watch.