HOUSTON - Nearly 40 Houston-area homes are about to go green, installing solar power through a new co-op. The move will save them money and help protect the environment.
Joining a solar co-op can not only help families save on their energy bills, but cut the installation cost because they can get the equipment at a bulk rate.
"About 90 percent of the electricity we use is made up of either directly by consumer solar or selling solar back to Green Mountain Energy," said Wally Calaway, who installed solar panels on his home three years ago.
He says it has slashed his energy bills.
"My electric bill was sort of an average of $100 a month, on average, previous to solar panels, now it averages about 10 dollars a month," said Calaway.
Now he's ready to add more panels as one of 39 members of the new Solar United Neighbors' East Houston Solar Co-op. Solar United Neighbors is a non-profit that helps homeowners form co-ops. The co-ops choose an installer that offers them a group discount. The East Houston Solar Co-op has chosen Green Mountain Energy.
"Each homeowner gets a personalized proposal for them. Every house is a little bit different. Customers use different amounts of electricity," explained Daniel Richmond with Green Mountain Energy.
Richmond says the average homeowner spends anywhere from $10,000 to $50,000, depending on how much of their energy they want to be solar. He says they make that back in energy savings and tax credits over seven to ten years.
"It's large, but it's one of those things you're earning a return on. Lots of solar companies say you're renting your power now. Now you own it, and it really is, you're fixing the price of your electricity," said Richmond.
Calaway says his panels are guaranteed for 25 years, leaving him 15 years of free energy and the peace of knowing he's helping to reduce pollution.
"I'm a scientist. I worked for the Department of Energy, so I've been well aware of our dependence on fossil fuel and climate change and the need to find alternative energy sources," said Calaway.
Homeowners can join the Solar United Neighbors' East Houston Co-op until September 30th.