It’s interesting to visit Texas and compare that state to Mississippi.
My sister’s family lives in the middle of the so-called Texas Triangle – an area of intense growth cornered by San Antonio, Austin and Houston.
They live in Roundtop, population 90, which is about an hour’s drive to Austin, an hour and a half to Houston, and two hours to San Antonio. The whole area is booming.
The tiny town of Roundtop, where they have lived on and off for 25 years, has boomed into an artsy antique village. The town center is packed with cutesy high-end boutiques. The annual antique show, which lasts over a month, brings in millions of people. It is the kind of growth and vibrancy that many Mississippians hope and long for.
My brother-in-law Steve isn’t so excited. He keeps telling me he wants to move to Mississippi. The traffic and the growth is getting on his nerves. It seems like the Texas Triangle is destined to become one huge metropolitan area.
On my drive from Roundtop to San Antonio, where my Aunt Fae hosted a party of 35, the traffic was often bumper to bumper. Even in between towns, there were no breaks in the never-ending lines of cars.
It’s fun to visit Texas. Roundtop is just far enough away that the topography is quite different than Mississippi. The cedar elms, scrub oaks, post oaks and cedars are a third the size of our Mississippi trees. Our trees are so tall, only massive trunks are at eye level. Their trees are so short, the pretty crowns of the trees are at eye level.
My sister Melanie and Steve live in the country in a beautiful historic home. They are always making it nicer and better. This visit, Steve showed me his new solar panels lining the southern side of his barn roof.
This surprised me a bit, since Steve’s been in the oil business for decades. Nevertheless, he was quite enthusiastic about the new panels, which on a sunny day provide twice the power his house needs.
When the panels produce more electricity than his house needs, it goes into the grid and Steve gets a credit at the wholesale rate, the rate the utility company purchases its own electricity. This is called net metering, something available nationwide, but not in Mississippi, which is one of four states to lag behind the times.
Steve just installed the panels and he’s looking forward to the summertime when his AC units are blasting away, fully powered by his barn’s solar panels.
With a 30 percent federal tax credit, Steve figures on an eight-year payback. The system is warrantied for 25 years.
Globally, solar power is disproving the naysayers. Efficiency continues to increase and prices continue to drop. At this rate, solar will be competitive with natural gas in a few years, even without subsidies. Over the next five years, 500 gigawatts of solar power will be installed. That’s 1,000 Kemper power plants.
Imagine all the chicken houses in Mississippi that could benefit from this technology. It is a travesty our Public Service Commission and state Legislature have kept Mississippians from harnessing the power of the sun.
Texas brother-in-law Steve Stringfellow cuts his electricity bill down to nothing with solar panels.