Ready to move to the next step of getting quotes and choosing a solar energy system installer? Fantastic! First, you should know that if you plan to have your system grid-tied, which most are, you will need to work with a retail electric provider and an installer. The retail electric provider - commonly referred to as an REP - sets your electricity rates and will be your direct contract for electricity charges and services, while the installer - also referred to as the contractor or developer - will install the system. To maximize cost benefits from your solar system, it is recommended to research which REP and installer will be best suited for your needs. While Texas does not have any specific licensing requirements, there are several resources available to help make sure you select a reputable installer and that your solar installation performs as expected. Aways remember to get at least 3 quotes before committing to a company.
There are more than 100 REPs operating in Texas’ competitive electricity market, each of which offer customers slightly different rates and incentives. As a prospective customer with solar, you should contact your current and other REPs to ask about their rates and whether they have a program in place to purchase your excess energy; also referred to as out-flow. A useful tool to compare REP offerings is the Public Utility Commission of Texas’ Power to Choose website. Their Available Purchase Offers search tool can help you find REPs offering buy-back programs in your area. For more information, including what you need to know about signing an interconnection agreement with the transmission and distribution utility in your region, visit Power to Choose's Selling Renewable Energy page.
One of the most important steps in going solar is choosing a trusted installer. Even though Texas doesn't have specific licensing requirements, there are several steps you can take to select a reputable installer so your solar installation performs as expected.
1. Do your homework: Certified and vetted solar installers can be found by using the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) Certified Locator tool or by visiting Oncor’s Take A Load Off, Texas Website. NABCEP is known as the “gold standard” certification for solar professionals. You can find a list of NABCEP Certified Professionals in Texas by using the Certified Locator tool on their website. Customer’s within Oncor’s service territory can also use Oncor’s Take a Load Off, Texas Provider Search. It lists companies who have completed paperwork and have been vetted by Oncor to take advantage of their solar incentives. While this is not a complete list of solar installers in North Texas, a customer must use one of these providers if they intend to claim one of Oncor’s incentives. Simply enter your zip code and select "Solar Photovoltaic Residential" or "Solar Photovoltaic Commercial" from the Programs list.
2. Request 3 quotes: Obtain three estimates and discuss financing, incentives, and logistics with each installer.
3. Verify: Once an installer provides a quote, you can do a "double-check" on whether their proposal is likely to pan out by using the Department of Energy PV Watts calculator. Simply input the address and use the default settings, and enter the kW size proposed, and the calculator will estimate how much energy (and the value of the energy) the system is expected to produce.
Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA)
SEIA provides a Residential Consumer Guide to Solar Power that offers advice on financing solar systems and selecting a solar installer. The guide also includes key questions to ask solar professionals during the process.
Texas Solar Energy Society
The Texas Solar Energy Society (TXSES) provides a brief guide to choosing an installer. They recommend a five-step process (similar to the above) and stress the importance of checking with your insurance provider to see if extreme weather damage (ex: hail) to solar panels can be covered.
Icons courtesy of Arthur Shlain, Gregor Cresnar, IYIKON, and H Alberto Gongora from Noun Project.