Today, in this post I'm going to discuss about the solar design and its profitability in the state of Texas (USA).
You can see in the map below that Texas is located in the center of the South of the United States of America.
It is the second largest state after Alaska in terms of total area.
It is also second after California when we look at the population of this state.
We can guess that high population means increasing energy demand and more consumption.
Is Solar Design Profitable in Texas?
We'll answer this question in the end after evaluating each and every aspect (Technical and Financial) of the feasibility of the Solar Power System.
Let me show you some statistics of the State:
1) State: Texas
2) Capital: Austin
3) Area: 6,95,662 km²
Know the Peak Sun Hours
The very first step of designing the system is to know the Peak Sun Hours in that region.
By Peak sun Hours, I mean to say that amount of sunlight falling on the surface.
The good Sunlight is favorable for solar design and its profitability.
You can see that the Average Peak Sun Hours in the State are 5.65.
any value above 5 is considered very good.
(Solar Feasibility Spreadsheet: Size, Design, and find the profitability of Solar Power System in minutes.)
I can say that Texas receives good amount of Sunlight that makes Solar a favorable energy option for its residents and the home-owners.
Texas is a big state with its area spanning around 6,95,662 km² with many geographical diversities where you can see hot, warm, humid, and cold climate.
Due to this you can feel difference in the Sunlight from East to West and North to South of the state.
In order to get the real picture of the Sunlight intensity across the state, let me take 4-5 counties in each direction of East, West, North, South, and the Center.
Let's check out the Peak Sun Hours in these counties of the state.
You can check out from the above table that El Paso (The Western-most County) receives the highest PSH amongst the above 5 counties
the Newton County (The Easternmost part of the state) has the lowest PSH.
Therefore, people living in El Paso have an advantage of very good amount of Sunlight when compared to the other 4 counties of the state.
"With same energy needs, a person living in El Paso needs the least number of Solar Panels to meet her/his energy demands."
The Climate of Texas
Understanding the climate of Texas will help us in choosing the right Solar Panel for designing the system.
The Tornadoes are quite frequent in Texas than any other state of United States.
(*Tornado is a violently rotating air column that extends from thunder storm to the ground.)
Let us divide the state into 5 geographical regions and then study the climate:
Northern Region of Texas
The Northern region of the state lies in the Tornado alley (It is the region around the central part of USA where Tornadoes are more frequent and North of Texas lies in that region).
The Northern region is semi-arid (dry climate) that receives little rainfall.
The sky is mostly clear in the summer season.
The average annual day temperature in Dallam County is 21.4 °C
(Day Temperature: Average temperature when there is Sun in the sky)
In the map you can see that the Northern part is quite far from Gulf of Mexico,
In winters, you can see the temperature falling below freezing point in night. The winters are short in the region.
As discussed, the North part of the state comes in Tornado Alley.
So, a person living in North Part of the state and is interested in going solar then s/he must look for panels that can withstand heavy wind pressure during an event of Tornado.
Let me show you the chart of wind speed and its corresponding pressure:
Although, the average wind speed is in the range of 12-13 mph but there were instances in the past where the recorded wind speed was more than 80 mph.
Therefore, one should look for solar panel that is capable of withstanding high wind speed.
The industry average is 2400 Pa (Look for the Rear Load of the panel specifications).
So, get a panel that is stronger than the industry average.
Kindly look at the part of the data sheet of Solaria Power Solar Panel.
You can see that its Rear Load strength is 3600 Pa (very well above the industry average).
The Western region of the state is mostly arid and receives annual rainfall below 16 inches.
This region consists of Chihuahuan desert and mountain ranges.
It is the region that receives maximum amount of sunlight and average annual day temperature in El Paso County is 16.4 °C
You can check in the Excel table above that El Paso county that comes in western region of the state receives the maximum sunlight (6.6 PSH) amongst the 5 that are mentioned in the table.
You need fewer panels to meet your energy needs if you happen to use solar energy in that part of the state.
This region do experience winds therefore, high strength solar panels are preferred.
Central Region of Texas
The center region of Texas is mix of semi-arid and sub-humid climate.
The Western and Central western part of Central region of Texas is semi-arid
the Eastern and Southern part is having sub-humid climate. It is due to its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico.
The humidity is high in this part.
because of this (water droplets hinder sunlight reaching the surface of earth.) the average sunlight intensity is low than Western and Northern region of the state.
Please checkout the Peak Sun Hours (PSH) of Concho County (lies in the central Texas), they are 5.9 that are less than the PSH of El Paso County (East) and Dallam County (North).
The average annual day temperature in Concho County is around 26 °C.
"With same energy needs, a person living in Concho County will need more number of Solar Panels that of a person living either in El Paso County or Dallam County"
The Eastern Region
The East of Texas lies in the humid zone that receives good amount of rainfall.
It is all because of its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico that brings currents over this region and finally precipitates as rainfall.
You'll see mostly cloudy days over the eastern coastline while in the western part of this eastern region, the days are clear in summers.
This is also the region where one can see hurricanes and cyclones.
There are 2 things to consider from Solar point of view:
1) Due to humidity the Peak Sun Hours are affected (Newton county: 5.3 PSH)
2) We need stronger panels that can withstand high wind speed.
3) The average annual day temperature in Newton County is 23 °C
The Southern Region
The coastal areas of the Southern part of the state are humid due to nearby Gulf of Mexico and Rio-Grande River.
the inland region is semi-arid in nature.
The coastal area near to Gulf of Mexico has a tropical weather system and is a target of hurricanes and cyclones.
Main points from Solar point of view:
Solar-Electricity units produced by the 5 kW system
The electricity produced by the solar power system depends on many environmental factors like sunlight intensity, temperature, humidity, etc.
while sunlight intensity has a direct relation with the units produced by the system
But the factors like temperature, humidity, etc have inverse relation with solar electricity produced by the system.
That is with increase in the temperature and the increase in moisture content in the atmosphere, the output of your solar power system is going to reduce.
Let's take solar-electricity units produced by the 5 kW systems when each of them is placed in the above 5 counties (El Paso, Dallam, Newton, Cameron, and Concho).
You can see in the chart above that the 5 kW solar power system in El Paso County produces the maximum units of 7128 per year amongst the 5 locations of Texas.
The same 5 kW solar power in Newton County of the state produces the least that are 5736 units per year.
The average of units produced in all 5 locations is 6422 units per year.
let me give you some average values of the solar-electricity units produced by 5 kW system in Texas so that it becomes easy for you to understand.
Please look at the Normal Distribution Chart below:
Let's understand this...
If you're having 5 kW system in Texas then:
What is the average cost of 5 kW system in the state?
The average cost of 5 kW Solar Power System in the state will cost you around $ 13,650 (before Investment Tax Credit)
This makes it an average of $ 2.73 per watt.
On one hand, people are paying more
on other hand, some are paying less than the above mentioned average cost of 5 kW system.
When you know the sizing and designing of each component in the solar power system,
I'm sure you can always save a few thousand dollars more from the average cost prevailing in the solar market.
I'm going to take this average cost as the first step towards finding the financial feasibility of 5 kW Solar Power System.
Grid Electricity Price in Texas
The grid price and its escalation tell us about the economic value that you're going to save in future when you switch to Solar.
If either the grid price or its escalation or both are above the country average
switching to solar would give you more economical value.
The 12 months average of residential grid electricity rate in US is 12.81 cents/ kWh and its 12 year (2005-2017) growth rate is 2.59%.
While on the other hand,
the grid electricity rate in Texas is 11.19 cents/ kWh and its 12 year escalation during the same period is 0.32%.
If I plot a graph of Electricity rates in next 25 years taking 0.32% as the escalation.
Then my graph will look something like this:
It means that if I'm paying 11 cents today for consuming 1 unit today,
I would be paying 12 cents for the same unit consumed in the 25th year.
In other words,
if you switch to solar today, then it is going to save you 12 cents per solar unit that will be generated in the 25th year.
What is the Financial Feasibility of 5 kW solar power system in Texas?
Let me show you the annual return and Net Savings in 25 years of a 5 kW solar power system under different cost categories.
Case - I
When you purchase the system at its average cost of $ 13,650 prevailing in the market then the annual return offered would be 1% and Net Savings would be $ 1,779.
Case - II
Case - III
Let's analyse the returns with different cost sets after ITC (Investment Tax Credit) of 26% on the cost of the system.
For example, you purchased a 5 kW solar power system at the average cost of $ 13,650.
Then after availing 26% ITC on the cost of the solar power system, the net cost beared by you would be $ 13,650 - (26% of $ 13,650)
= $ 13,650 - $ 3,549
= $ 10,101
The Annual Returns and Net-Savings under 3 different costs after ITC are tabulated below:
the question that strikes in anyone's mind is, "Why the return is low?"
Although, everything is good about the state like:
i) Very good amount of sunlight
ii) Right Temperature
iii) the units produced by 5 kW system are very good
iii) 26% ITC
Let me answer this,
Did you notice one thing about the electricity price and its escalation in the state?
The grid price in Texas (11.19 cents/kWh) is less than the country (US) average of 12.81 cents/kWh.
However, this difference is not wide.
But when you compare the escalation in grid prices of Texas (0.32%) with that of the country (2.59%),
You'll notice that it is very low when compared with the country's average.
It is because of very low grid escalation rate in the state, the economic benefits of switching to Solar are less when compared to other US states where grid prices and escalation are higher than the country's average.
That doesn't mean Solar is not Feasible.
It is very much smooth and easy in terms of designing and financially profitable despite low grid escalation in the state.
My Final Thoughts about Solar in Texas
Texas is a Sunlight rich state where Solar Power Installation is favorable.
Let us summarize the feasibility of Solar Power System in 2 parts:
1) Texas is a Sunlight rich state where a 5 kW solar power system is capable of producing on an average of 20 units per day.
2) Texas is a place where you see frequent tornadoes and cyclones.
Therefore, one should look for strong solar panels that can withstand the wind pressure.
The 2400 Pa Rear Load is an average in Solar Panels. One need to look for panels that have strength > 2400 Pa.
3) The average annual day temperature of the state is below 25 °C.
4) If you're looking for battery backup then you should connect MPPT solar charge controller between the Solar Panels and the Battery.
Because, solar panels below 25 °C tend to produce more voltage than mentioned under Standard Test Conditions.
This creates a difference in panel voltage and battery voltage.
The MPPT solar charge controllers detect this difference and convert this difference into equivalent amount of amperage.
In other words, the MPPT charge controllers always capture the maximum power from the solar panels and pass it to the batteries.
Hence, there is no wastage of power due to voltage difference and your system performs to the maximum extent, facilitating its financial feasibility.
5) Texas lies in the Northern Hemisphere with location coordinates of:
One should keep the solar panels facing towards South and the tilt with respect to the ground should be in between 21.7° to 30.8°.
"Technical sizing and designing of Solar Power System in Texas is sound and strong that is going to provide you smooth electricity for decades."
1) The profitability and return offered by the solar power system depend mainly on i) Sunlight ii) the cost of the system and its maintenance cost and iii) the grid prices and its escalation rate.
2) Based on the above factors, the return provided by the 5 kW solar power system can be depicted as follows:
Let us understand this:
Your focus area should be to get the system around $ 8,500.
This is thinkable and likely when you know your energy needs, sizing, and designing of each component.
You can easily negotiate with your solar installer and can always put your point that you are saving his time on activities like knowing energy needs, sizing, and designing activities.
You can always ask him to compensate his time saving with equivalent amount of monetary discount.
Moreover, your knowledge about the system empowers you to get the solar parts and its components at the most competitive prices available in the market.
This was all about Design, Cost, and the Profitability of 5 kW Solar Power System in Texas.
MY OPINION: GO FOR SOLAR by referring above mentioned points.
I welcome you all to share your valuable thoughts about the designing and Profitability of the System in the comment section given below.