VIEWS: A Solar Panel Story - Part IV

Dispatch from SSC Consultant, Lorre Walker

This series of blog posts covers my parents’ decision to install solar panels on their house in Dallas, Texas, the trials and tribulations of the process, and lessons learned after installation was completed. 

Lessons Learned

 Find out what entities you will be dealing with in your area, like the utility, the power line servicer, and service provider. It is different in all communities. 

  1. Determine which entity is responsible for what.
  2. Find out what are the requirements that each entity needs fulfilled.
  3. Take several bids from different service providers. 
  4. Know who your electrician is for the project. Don’t rely on the service provider to supply that party. Though the electrician was efficient and good. A third pair of eyes would have informed us about the electrical panel and the need to be up to code.
  5. Have a third party electrician with solar experience evaluate your needs prior to any agreement with the service provider.
  6. Keep in constant contact with the parties involved.
  7. Find out if your utility provider requires an agreement to buy your excess (out-flow) power generated.
  8. Know if you live in a home association or a neighborhood association. Home associations can restrict or prohibit the use of solar or wind devices.
  9. Contact your city or county about their solar or wind policies or restrictions.

In an earlier entry I said, "Right now, we don't expect to be ‘selling’ power yet." In a few days I have learned two new things I want to share. 

1) In the last 13 days, we have "off-loaded" 6 KWHs excess power to the electrical grid. Indeed, I did see the meter "worm" run backward. So we are putting power into the outside system, and we flat-lined our power use at some times of the day. 

When one does not have an agreement in effect, it does NOT stop you from running your meter backwards and sending excess power to the grid. We were told by the salesman that we would not produce enough power to feed some into the grid. But he was wrong. Since we do not have batteries, we get no solar benefit at night and use power from the grid. But during parts of bright sunny days, we have exceeded our needs. We just will not be credited for excess power until the agreement goes in place.

2) The home owner must make an agreement with the local electric utility company—in our case TXU Energy. We thought we had jumped through all the necessary hoops with Oncor and ERCOT, but were notified that we need a Surplus Power Agreement with the utility if we were to be paid for the power we feed into the grid. After signing the agreement, it takes 45 days to go into effect. Then we will be receiving a quarterly check for the energy we feed into the grid.  

This continues to be a learning experience.

You might want to average out your power needs, look at your yearly billing, etc. Perhaps invest in a power monitor that reads the wattage and converts it into your local rate, dollars, and cents. In Dallas, the new DRG meters can utilize wireless monitors. I am looking into the Blue Line and Black and Decker models. Also, TXU Energy offers a new thermostat that wirelessly communicates with a modem attached to your PC. You can control the thermostat by the PC and look at your usage graphed out.

What astounds me is that there are so many entities involved, each with its own requirements. Each community has different groups to work with. 

Our solar panels will probably not produce enough electricity to meet all of our needs. But there are multiple reasons to invest in solar energy. We are confident that we have made a wise decision. 


To continue the discussion on the SSC Consultant Discussion Board, click here.

For SSC clients, it may or may not make sense for you to consider installing solar panels or making other energy-saving additions to your building. We can help you figure that out by conducting an energy audit or a green audit. For information about our products and services in this area, click here or contact us at