Since its solar rebate-matching program launched in August, Advanced Solar has received far more than 200 applications – it received that many within two weeks.

Advanced Solar has approved about 150 applications for its All Inclusive Incentive Program aimed at promoting and spreading solar throughout the city, especially to lower-income residents. The local installation company matches CPS Energy‘s rebate, currently $0.80 per kilowatt-hour, for qualifying customers who live in Districts 1-5 or have a home worth less than $100,000 anywhere in the city.

Allison Carrazco watched on Tuesday as an Advanced Solar crew began installing 24 panels on her home in a relatively new subdivision outside of Loop 410 on the Eastside. She and her husband Peter appear to be the first in the neighborhood to “go solar.”

“They’re real curious about it,” Allison said of her neighbors as we stood in a yard next to her home to get a better view of the installation crew on her roof.

She and Peter purchased their brand-new house less than two years ago after spending about eight years in San Diego. They both grew up on the far-Eastside, she said, and wanted to bring that Californian sense of environmental awareness back with them to their three children and to San Antonio.

After the local and federal rebates, Allison estimates she’ll pay about $6,000 for the almost seven-kilowatt system and save about $100 off of her average $220 energy bill. Through a financing program, she’ll be able to pay off the system and start realizing the savings in about five years.

“Solar panels are not just for the Northside,” Councilman Alan Warrick (D2) said during a brief press conference in the Carrazco’s driveway Tuesday morning. “If you look at these south-facing roofs that are catching all of this sunlight, there should be solar panels on at least 30 or 40 of these homes. (Allison) started the way.”

The Carrazco home is likely worth more than $100,000 and is not in a low-income zip code, but the point, Warrick said, is awareness of solar options for people who wouldn’t normally consider it.

For Allison, solar panels were too expensive and would have taken too long to repay without the rebate-matching program.

“As long as they have a solid roof that’s going to last 20-25 years, they can have the same deal that the Carrazco family is taking advantage of,” Warrick said. “That’s really what we’re here to push: (solar) in the inner city and in communities that have not seen solar panels yet.”

Lower-income families typically don’t participate in solar rebate programs because of the prohibitive upfront cost. There a host of other, more affordable appliance and energy rebates offered by CPS Energy’s Save for Tomorrow Energy Program. By arranging for special discounts from manufacturers, Advanced Solar is able to afford matching the discount.

Warrick was joined by State Rep. Philip Cortez (D-177) and West San Antonio Chamber of Commerce President Gabe Farias, who each noted the importance of diversifying San Antonio’s energy sources with renewables as well as reaching across districts and party lines to do so.

“The program has far exceeded all our expectations,” said Ben Rodriguez, director of project development for Advanced Solar. They expected to install on 40 or 50 rooftops, but could potentially reach 200-300 customers if the CPS Energy rebate lasts.

“While the (local) solar rebate is about to wind down,” said Advanced Solar founder Don Dickey, “there’s a lot of free money out there for the consumer right now.”

CPS Energy is currently experimenting with two pilot programs to make solar more accessible to its customers: SolarHostSA and RooflessSolar. The $0.80 City rebate will likely run out of funding in 2016. About $5 million remain in the rebate program, which was extended in February with a $30 million boost.

“As long as we have (a local rebate) to match, we’re going to match it,” Rodriguez said.

Sen. Menéndez Goes Solar, Calls for State Solar Incentives

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org