PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – Thanks to technology, harnessing solar power is more affordable for homeowners today than in the past.

In Plano, Larry Howe had ten solar panels installed on his roof two years ago. He’s reduced his energy usage by 25 percent, and has plans to put up more panels in the next year.

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“It’s local and it’s clean energy. It reduces the strain on the electric grid because it creates the electricity when we need it the most here in Texas,” Howe said.

As a volunteer with Plano Solar Advocates, Howe and other members help people interested in solar navigate through the process of applying, hiring, and installing panels. He counts twenty homeowners who installed panels last year, and another twenty in the process this year.

Howe says he recently learned, not everyone who wants solar panels can get them right away.

By Texas law, HOAs can not block homeowners from installing solar panels. The one exception is for new developments that are in the build out phase.

Howe says he knows of homeowners in Plano, Forney, and Saginaw who were told they’d have to wait on installing panels until each lot in their development is sold. For some that means a delay of two to three years.

“It sure would be nice if they would allow them to do it upfront instead of waiting,” said Howe.

The Dallas Builders Association includes 400 North Texas builders.

Executive Director Phil Crone explains why some developers are concerned with how solar panels look.

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“They want to make sure all the lots get sold as soon as possible. They have every economic advantage in the world to try to get that community turned over to the HOA,” said Crone.

Crone says among builders, he’s seen a growing interest in solar-ready homes — homes hooked up and wired to harness solar energy.

“I think the potential problems that a developer could see is just the nature in which solar is installed. There are aesthetically pleasing ways to do it, and aesthetically displeasing ways to do it,” said Crone.

Howe sees solar power as a vital part of the future of energy, especially in the heat of a Texas summer.

“I think that’s kind of old thinking, and we’re really hoping that builders won’t block the opportunity for people to install solar, even if it’s in development. Because it helps the neighborhood long-term, “said Howe.

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