Solar

Theron Palmer stands in front of his house that is equipped with solar panels. Denton Municipal Electric is boosting next year’s budget for Green Sense, an energy conservation rebate program.

Denton Municipal Electric is boosting next year’s budget for Green Sense, an energy conservation rebate program that will include a bigger — and more strategic — pot of money to subsidize rooftop solar power.

City staff proposed allocating about $860,000 to the program, with $500,000 going to subsidize solar panels on Denton homes and businesses. Council members agreed to the program changes this week as part of ongoing budget talks. The remaining program funds will pay for other rebates and energy audits.

Rooftop solar is driving some of the program’s growth, but people lined up the most last year for help paying for more efficient air conditioners, according to city spokeswoman Jessica Rogers.

A total of 134 Denton households shared $50,600 in rebates for new heating and air conditioning systems for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Another 66 households and one business maxed out the city’s $300,000 rooftop solar rebate budget. Those solar panel installations brought 443 kilowatts to the local grid.

From 2014 to 2016, the city held the line at $180,000 each year for solar rebates. To respond to increasing demand, the council increased the allocation to $200,000 in 2017 and $300,000 in 2018.

The staff told the City Council that if the subsidies had been tiered, the city could have served 15 more households with this year’s budget.

The council agreed to tiered subsidies next year to help more property owners. The maximum rebate won’t change, but the city will limit the rate of rebate based on the size of the project and whether it is installed with battery storage.

Coming next year for the first time will also be a little help for do-it-yourself weatherizing, like caulking and weather stripping.

“Weatherization is something almost every home can use and, arguably, the most affordable upgrade a homeowner can do without hiring an expert,” Rogers wrote in an email.

A bead of caulk along the seam between the ceiling and the walls limits attic heat from leaking into the house. Weather stripping around doors and behind outlets and light switches can also keep winter warmth in and summer heat out.

Weatherization grants will max out at $50. Similar to the smart thermostat rebate, customers need only submit proof of purchase for the materials.

For the first time last year, the city offered incentives to people who bought electric vehicles in exchange for the promise they would charge them overnight at home.

This year, new plug-in hybrid cars will also be eligible for that incentive.

Residents should review the Green Sense manual and program guidelines before planning a project to make sure it will be eligible for a rebate.

As of Aug. 13, the city still has about 47 percent of its rebate budget available for such projects as attic insulation, radiant barriers, solar screens, energy-efficient windows and HVAC systems, smart thermostats and duct work.

Additional guidance is available through free home energy audits. Call customer service at 940-349-8700 or visit https://bit.ly/2N8aV85 to schedule an audit.

PEGGY HEINKEL-WOLFE can be reached at 940-566-6881 and via Twitter at @phwolfeDRC.

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