HOUSTON - Solar power installations reached a record high in 2020 across the country, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
More people are going solar in Houston, too. Environment Texas says solar panel installations quadrupled in Houston from 2018 to 2020.
Experts say it's due not only to more people making home improvements during the pandemic but in response to the blackouts during February's Big Freeze. Wally Calaway says that's what he's been saving since installing solar panels on his Clear Lake home three years ago.
"My electric bill was sort of an average of $100 a month previous to solar panels. Now it averages about $10 a month," said Calaway. "About 90% of the electricity we use is made up either directly by consumer solar or selling solar."
Solar United Neighbors is a non-profit that helps homeowners form co-ops so they can go solar as a group and save money. SUN has launched six co-ops in the Houston area, including a new city-wide co-op in April that more than 200 people have already joined.
"We have definitely noticed an increase in interest in rooftop solar and storage," said Hannah Mitchell with SUN. "Many people report in Houston that's about a 10 to 15-year payback on their investment."
Mitchell says the average Houston homeowner spends $10,000 to $20,000 installing solar power and recoups that in lower power bills and tax credits.
Solar panels last about 25 years, leaving up to 15 years of little to no electric bills.
Mitchell says homeowners can store their solar power in a battery, which can increase the installation cost by about 30%. She says a battery usually powers several appliances for about 24 hours.
"They pick and choose, I'm going to keep the refrigerator on and keep the fans going," she said.
The SUN website says solar power adds about $15,000 to the resale value of your home and can help lower energy bills for everyone on the grid.
"Solutions like rooftop solar and energy-efficient storage can have the potential to help everyone save on their bills, not just those with solar," said Mitchell.
A landfill in Sunnyside is also currently being turned into a solar farm that will be able to power 12,000 homes.