Solar inspections backlogged as industry experts note high demand in Texas

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — Because of concerns about the reliability of the state’s power grid, industry experts said there is high demand for home solar. But following a tip to KXAN, Austin Energy told us inspection wait times for solar panel installation are averaging several weeks.

Joju Quejada said he decided to get solar panels installed at his north Austin home to reduce his carbon footprint and save money. On top of that, February’s winter storm had him thinking it was all the more important to keep his house humming during the next outage.

“The grid was unstable during ‘Snowvid’ and having my own power would lessen my dependency on the grid,” said Quejada.

He said the solar panels were installed in May but only recently did he get a final inspection.

“Every time the guys who installed solar came, they said, ‘you have to wait six to eight weeks,'” said Quejada.

Austin Energy inspects newly-installed solar equipment to make sure its up to city code. Inspections this year are outpacing those in 2020, reaching more than 160 in April.

SOLAR INSPECTIONS: Austin Energy has performed more final inspections for solar equipment this year than at this point last year.
SOLAR INSPECTIONS: Austin Energy has performed more final inspections for solar equipment this year than at this point last year.

But Austin Energy is currently backlogged with requests. The utility told us solar inspection wait times have averaged five weeks, but that sped up since we started asking questions late last month. Austin Energy said inspections requested now will be completed in two weeks or less. The utility said it recently doubled its solar inspection staff to four people to keep up with the demand.

“Austin Energy has doubled its inspection staff to reduce the wait times,” said an AE spokesperson. “We understand this has been an inconvenience to our customers waiting to energize their newly-installed solar, and we are working diligently to perform the inspections needed to interconnect solar installations in order to supplement our summer generation and reduce our solar customer’s summer bills.”

High demand for solar after Winter Storm Uri

Quejada is far from the only Texan who has chosen to go solar following the winter storm in February.

To learn more, we spoke with Boston-based EnergySage, which bills itself as the ‘Expedia of Solar,’ allowing customers to compare quotes from solar companies.

“We saw a significant spike across the customers in Texas,” said CEO Vikram Aggarwal. “Our website traffic jumped by almost 250% in February, and then people signing up for solar jumped up closer to 400%.”

But Aggarwal said Texans’ interest in solar — and with that backup battery storage — has remained strong months after the storm. He noted there was another spike of interest last month when ERCOT urged Texans to conserve energy due to increased demand on the grid.

Aggarwal said, “That’s what consumers think about. ‘Can I add a battery storage system so when either the sun is not shining or the grid is down, I can then use my battery system to power my home?'”

He added the solar industry nationwide had a very good year last year, growing 43%.

Aggarwal said when a customer is considering solar, they should evaluate their options and get quotes from at least three solar companies.

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