AUSTIN, Texas -- There's never been a cheaper time to consider installing solar on your home, and local power companies say demand is soaring.
Last year, Austin Energy received applications from more than 1,000 property owners for rooftop solar.
"That's about five years' worth right there," AE's Robert Cullick said. "This community is moving toward a net carbon zero, and it will get there from its utility first."
The solar industry is seizing the opportunity to not only market their best panels, but also showcase new technologies that can go beyond providing your home electricity. Bob Leckinger of California-based FAFCO demonstrated a solar panel system that can double as a swimming pool heater.
"We can actually increase the electrical output of the [solar] module somewhere between two percent and 20 percent, depending on how much water you run through the back of the heat exchanger," Leckinger said.
FAFCO was one of dozens of vendors at the 2017 Solar Power Texas conference, hosted in part by the Solar Energy Industries Association.
"One of the things we focus on a lot as a trade organization is making sure consumers have a choice," SEIA's Abigail Hopper said. "They have a right to generate on their roofs."
Some homeowner associations ban residents from installing solar panels, especially if they are visible from the street.
"For many consumers, it will make economic sense today and they should explore that, but they should also let their policymakers know they want the right to be able to install it on their roof," Hopper said.
Together, Austin Energy and San Antonio’s CPS generate more than two thirds of the state’s solar power. Each utility is close to reaching its goal of having 500 megawatts of solar in its energy portfolio.
"We are moving toward a goal of producing well over 100 megawatts just within the city area--the urban landscape--right now," Cullick said.