HEARNE, Texas — Hearne city council passed a solar energy buyback ordinance on Tuesday, which states that Hearne residents who install solar panels on their homes can receive $0.048 per kilowatt-hour for any excess energy storage.
City officials told KRHD that this power purchased by Hearne from private citizens will then be used by the city as they meet the energy needs of their own municipal utility customers.
“The consumer needs to be aware of what contract he or she is signing," advised Ed Hirs, energy fellow with the University of Houston. "Who owns the panels... and is the electricity all on your side of the meter [where] you get to use it or does it go out into the grid and you have to shunt it back?”
Hirs, an energy expert, suggested that while solar panel installations can be beneficial to homeowners, it’s critical that the buyer beware and read contracts closely to see who actually owns the panels and power.
He noted that solar panels, batteries, and installation cost thousands of dollars. Plus, that cost could take many years to pay off or earn back. But, panels could theoretically reduce or eliminate a homeowner's municipal electric bill.
"If you’re generating enough electricity to be self-sufficient, you’re fine," he said. "Most folks will keep the grid coming in because there are times, of course, when the sun doesn’t shine.”
Megan Tucker and Ryan Kearnes of ADC in Bryan arrange solar installations all across Texas and hope to get in on the Hearne market with the new ordinance. Tucker herself is a resident of Hearne and said there’s been no other option for her than municipal power and the state energy grid.
She’s happy to see the ordinance come around.
“This gives a lot of opportunities for people who were in the dark through the winter storm, and just gives opportunities in general," Tucker said. "Because, Hearne has kind of been undeveloped, but it is becoming a bigger city day by day.”
Tucker and Kearnes pointed out that while solar panels do cost thousands of dollars, loans for homeowners with credit scores as low as 600 are available.
"Energy prices have doubled since 2003, so this is something where you can lock your bill in for the next 30 or 40 years," Kearnes commented.
Plus, Kearnes explained that with adequate battery storage, solar customers may have their own resources should the power grid fail.