Frustrated solar customers say they can't get permission to use expensive systems

If you, or your neighbor, recently invested in solar panels, there's a good chance you're still waiting for that expensive investment to provide any power. A massive backlog is responsible for slowing the process of getting those systems connected to the grid.

Brian Hiatt is one of those people as he looks at an elaborate stand-alone solar array next to his Waller County home, "I'm really curious and excited to get the chance to turn it on." The project has been built for months, designed to provide more than 21 kilowatts of electricity on a sunny Texas day. 

RELATED: Home solar power installations quadrupled in Houston

Despite all that potential power production, "I'm getting zero, right now," he says. "I do not have permission to operate, from CenterPoint, at this moment."

The Public Utility Commission of Texas set rules for connecting solar systems to the grid, and CenterPoint is responsible for inspecting and greenlighting each project in its coverage area. There are a lot of projects. Texas has the second-highest solar capacity, behind California, according to an industry analysis. CenterPoint has been unable to keep up, leaving some customers, like Brian Hiatt, losing money. 

"I'm actually paying for a system that's providing no value. So I'm basically paying double my monthly electric bill, right now," he says.

In a statement to FOX26, CenterPoint says, in part, "...that processing time for solar panel installations has increased due to the growth in the number of applications... by more than 100% since the start of 2022." 

MORE: Nearly 40 Houston-area homes going solar, saving money through new co-op

To address the problem, CenterPoint says it's hiring more people to handle the load, using an updated process that allows applications to be approved more quickly, and trying to quickly resolve any problems that may be identified with a project.

Brian Hiatt hopes it works, soon. He's getting tired of waiting, "I'm already 12 weeks, post-installation. That's considerably outside the two to four week expectation that I had when I started this process back in March."

Despite some complaints from frustrated solar customers who've emailed FOX 26, who believe there's an incentive for the approval process to go slow, because it takes money out of the grid, CenterPoint insists that it supports renewable energy, including the installation of solar panels. It could just be that solar 'popularity' is moving faster than 'capability' for now.

If you'd like to explore the cost of installing solar panels, in your area, click here for more information.