State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) and Ben Rodriguez (left) watch from the street as a crew from Advanced Solar install solar panels on Mendéndez's roof.
State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) and Ben Rodriguez (left) watch from the street as a crew from Advanced Solar install solar panels on Mendéndez's roof. Credit: James McCandless / San Antonio Report

State Sen. José Menéndez (D-26) may be the first sitting Texas elected official to have solar panels installed on his roof.

“On the one hand, I obviously feel good about leading by example, and not just with my words. But I wish that I wasn’t the first,” Menéndez said. “I wish that, as a city, it would be more commonplace for us to have solar panels so that we could reduce our dependency on fossil fuels.”

A crew from Advanced Solar, a local solar company, installed the panels Thursday morning at his home on the Northside.

Menéndez hopes this will motivate families, especially low-income households, to take part in Advanced Solar’s All Inclusive Incentive Program. The $0.80 per watt rebate doubles the total rebate CPS Energy customers can receive for solar installations. Anyone living in City Council districts 1-5 or who owns a home in any district that’s worth less than $100,000 is eligible for the Advanced Solar rebate.

Eventually, Menéndez wants to see a city where home builders automatically include solar panels on new homes. For now, he is working on legislation to file in next year’s Legislative session to make solar panels affordable for low-income families.

“We should find a way to incentivize these panels to be a part of the house and therefore make overall living expenses lower for everybody,” Menéndez said. “We’d like to create some positive incentives that reduce those costs.”

If solar panels were installed statewide, he said, it would reduce the stress that has been put on the Texas energy grid and help stabilize it.

Advanced Solar Director of Project Development Ben Rodriguez said Menéndez’s actions, along with community education, will help public officials and their constituents understand the financial and environmental benefits of solar energy.

“Historically, we’ve had a lot of great elected officials and community organizers embrace the idea of renewable energies. However, when it comes down to actually implementing those ideas and projects into a budget or a long-term plan, it seems to fall a little short,” Rodriguez said. “People are becoming more educated. People are now seeing the advantages of the local and federal incentives that exists, the quick payback, and the long-term revenue generation.”

Workers prepare to install solar panels at the home of State Sen. José Menéndez (right).
Workers prepare to install solar panels at the home of State Sen. José Menéndez (right). Credit: James McCandless / San Antonio Report

The $0.80 CPS Energy solar 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. Rodriguez said the All Inclusive Incentive Program is contingent on CPS Energy providing some level of matching funds.

CPS Energy Spokesperson Paul Flaningan said the utility regularly meets with solar stakeholders and there are “a few proposals in front of us” for how to continue support for the industry.

The ultimate goal is to have the solar market drive itself, Flaningan said, but “we’re still discussing next steps.”

James McCandless

Former intern James McCandless is a recent St. Mary's University graduate. He has worked with the San Antonio Current and Texas Public Radio.