Homeowners in North Texas can have the opportunity to manage their solar power, but unfortunately it will be very expensive for them.

Suppose, however, residents could generate solar energy for less than they spend on gourmet coffee each month and sell any electricity they don’t use to the local power company?

In a potential game changer for renewable energy, TXU Energy is teaming with the nation’s largest designer of solar power panels to lease the equipment to homeowners. It’s an aggressive, innovative effort to make solar affordable and accessible. If successful, the approach probably will become a model followed coast to coast.

Why is it likely to work? Consider this: Many of us wouldn’t own a fancy cellphone if we had to fork over several hundred dollars for it. So the cellphone industry discovered years ago that offering a phone at a discount in exchange for a service agreement attracted millions of new customers. Now the phones are accessible to everyone from college students to globetrotting executives.

That’s our hope for solar energy. Right now, the panels are expensive and simply too rich for most pocketbooks. Even after government subsidies to help with cost, a homeowner easily could spend more than $14,000 to buy and install solar units. Consumers have done the math and decided they wouldn’t save enough on their monthly electricity bill to justify the investment.

Under the TXU Energy plan, California-based SolarCity will use federal and local solar tax credits and rebates to keep the lease rates low enough to entice North Texas residents to sign up. TXU Energy will market the program and buy solar power from customers who don’t need all they produce.

Renting solar units for a typical three- or four-bedroom home will cost about $35 a month and produce 4 kilowatts of power, enough to handle about 45 percent of that home’s average electricity needs. Homeowners also would avoid paying peak rates during the day. And every kilowatt generated at home is one less kilowatt clogging the electricity grid.

When we look back years from now, we hope to say this is the moment solar energy truly began to come of age.

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