El Paso offers residents at least 300 days of sunshine per year, so it just makes sense for the City of the El Paso to commit to support and grow the community’s clean-energy industry by investing in solar projects.
From December 2010 until May 2014, the City and El Paso Electric provided millions of dollars in financial incentives, or rebates, to customers who installed solar photovoltaic (PV) systems, also known as solar-electric systems, in their homes or businesses. The rebates are intended to help reduce the up-front costs for installing a solar-electric system.
Solar PV technology generates electricity using the sun’s energy. These systems allow you to reduce your energy costs by creating a portion of the electricity you need to power your home or business while helping the environment.
SolSmart provides recognition and no-cost technical assistance to help local governments reduce barriers to solar energy growth. With the help of our team of national and local experts, cities, counties, and towns are cutting red tape to make it easier for homes and businesses to go solar. Local governments that achieve these goals are eligible for SolSmart designation, providing national recognition that they are “open for solar business.” By encouraging solar energy development at the local level, SolSmart helps local governments bring new businesses to their community, promote economic growth, and foster the creation of new jobs. SolSmart is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative and supports its goal of making it faster, cheaper, and easier to go solar.
One of the elements of achieving SolSmart Designation is to host a cross-training between planning staff and inspection staff. The training was very beneficial and we plan on having a series of training to ensure our processes are clear and we reduce any and all barriers to supporting solar in our community! Check out the cross-training presentation that was given as well as pictures from the cross-training.
Check out our SolSmart Community Profile to find more information about local solar jobs and companies, solar market and economic potential, and more.
Community Solar Program - El Paso Electric
El Paso Electric announced in 2016 that they are now coal-free! In 2017, they also announced the launch of their Community Solar Program! Currently, every El Paso Electric residential and commercial customer in El Paso Electric's Texas service territory who doesn’t already have rooftop panels is eligible to subscribe to the Community Solar Program, whether the customer rents, leases or owns his or her home. When a customer subscribes to the Community Solar Program, your schare of solar power fulfills a portion of your energy needs and is reflected on your bill. Subscriptions begin with a 1 KW minimum at a cost of $20.96 / month. This price covers the cost of construction and maintenance of a solar field.
For more information about interconnection, renewable energy projects, and more, please check out El Paso Electric's Renewable Energy webpage.
PACE (Property Assessed Clean Energy) Financing
There are also many options available for financing solar projects. In 2016, the El Paso County Commissioners Court, led by County Judge Veronica Escobar, unanimously adopted the PACE program and selected the Texas PACE Authority (TPA) to administer the program. El Paso is the 5th Texas County to adopt a county-wide PACE program. All Texas counties and cities creating PACE programs use the PACE in a Box model – the open market PACE program with uniform documents and best practices designed to assist business owners interested in addressing delayed maintenance with energy and water efficiency improvements and onsite generation improvements. The voluntary program is designed to maximize economic development benefits throughout the County and is the only PACE model program designed by volunteer stakeholders.
The PACE program is an optional financing tool – a mechanism to enable owners of commercial and industrial property to gain access to funds for projects that will reduce water and energy utility costs under the most flexible and favorable terms. To learn more about PACE financing, check out the Texas PACE Authority's website.
Regional Renewable Energy Advisory Council (RREAC)
Also, in 2016, the City of El Paso formed a Regional Renewable Energy Advisory Council (RREAC) to provide recommendations to City Council about all matters related to renewable energy strategy and industry development. For more information, please visit the RREAC page.
Right to SunlightSection 20.12.030 in our municipal zoning code gives residents the right to sunlight when it comes to solar:
20.12.030 - Supplemental height regulations.
Height regulations as set forth in the Table of Density and Dimensional Standards — Appendix B, may be modified as follows:
A. No new building may be erected or existing building increased in height in such a manner as to shade a solar heating or power facility licensed in the following manner:
1. Where any building installs a heating, cooling or power system using sunlight as a power source sufficient to supply ten percent or more of the building's total energy requirement, the owner of the building may apply to the building official for a license for the system which the building official shall issue once satisfied that the system does supply the above minimum energy requirements.
2. After issuance of the license, no building in adjacent areas may be erected to a height that will cast a shadow on the solar receiver components so licensed. In determining the permitted heights, the December 22nd arc and declination of the sun shall be used. Location of licensed solar power systems shall be shown on the zoning district maps.
Interested in learning more about solar? Check out these links: