Solar installations in San Antonio have become purchasable and that may have been due to the Energy Efficiency Fund.

The fund was passed by the City Council in August of 2011, “to fund energy conservation projects in its facilities that reduce utility expenditures. The fund was designed to receive utility saving dollars from completed utility conservation projects as well as project incentives or rebates received from CPS Energy and SAWS,” according to the City of San Antonio website.

While this funding has been beneficial to residential and commercial consumers, there are other terms of funding that are also leaning toward sustainability. 

Today, the city of San Antonio is on a revenue fund, but when it comes to our Regional Storm Water Management Program, the city of San Antonio finds that the stormwater regional fund, also known as fee in-lieu-of (FILO), lies a benefit. 

The Transportation and Capital Improvements – Stormwater City of San Antonio Assistant Director, Nefi Garza, PE, spoke on the matter of low impact development, its expectations, and successful examples in the city.

He explained that we live in an area known as “Flash Flood Alley”. “The reason it is called flash flood alley is that the National Weather Service cannot give us good predictions of river and stream increases,” said Garza. 

While we do have many low water crossings; by implementing low impact development (LID) practices throughout the city, the city can be able to absorb some of that water. LID is a practice that mimics mother nature. 

At the city’s development services building there is a parking lot across the street. “There is a beautiful lid feature that does its job. It collects trash and water. There are other features like that throughout the city and we are learning from them,” added Garza.

On the other hand, some LID features didn’t reach the city’s expectations. 

There is a policy on LID, but Garza acknowledges that it can be strengthened. 

Sustainable Landscape Ecologist at the San Antonio River Authority (SARA), Lee Marlowe, BS, says SARA has been trying to promote LID practices for a while now. “We realized if we are going to be telling other people to do this, we need to do it ourselves,” said Marlowe.

SARA has, in fact, converted landscapes to retrofit LID. 

At their  main office location on the river, Marlowe explained how they received a 319 grant through the EPA and TCEQ. “We retrofitted that facility and we incorporated these three practices: rainwater capture, permeable pavement, and bioretention,” added Marlowe. The practices were installed to slow down and clean the stormwater runoff before it enters the San Antonio River.

While LID is implemented to retain stormwater and improve water quality, there are also low-impact solar development practices that could benefit the city of San Antonio. 

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) publication, in an article written by Harrison Dreves, titled Beneath Solar Panels, the Seeds of Opportunity Sprout, Dreves acknowledges the research of an ongoing study in central Minnesota. The study is “To quantify the benefits of a new approach to solar installations: low-impact solar development,” wrote Dreves. 

The article states, “To better understand the benefits of—and barriers to—low-impact solar development, the Innovative Site Preparation and Impact Reductions on the Environment (InSPIRE) project brings together researchers from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Argonne National Laboratory, universities, local governments, environmental and clean energy groups, and industry partners. The project is funded by DOE’s Solar Energy Technologies Office.” 

If the San Antonio LID policy ever strengthens the thought process of implementing solar installations to a “Flash Flood Alley” can be beneficial to the sunshine state too.