Solar panels are creeping onto rooftops and into yards in Palestine and the surrounding area as property owners are buying in to harvest the sun’s energy.
Some consumers are taking advantage of low prices, yet solar energy has a dark side. Large companies competing for a greater market share are saddling consumers with expensive long-term loans.
EasTex Solar, the first Palestine-based solar company, wants to bring solar energy to the area affordably. Cal Morton founded the family-owned business in 2018 to bring solar energy to the underserved East Texas region.
Morton told the Herald-Press homeowners are interested in installing solar power systems because it has become more affordable in the past 10 years. He explained that installing 600 square feet of solar panels, which can generate 10,000 kilowatts per hour, costs a homeowner roughly $20,000.
EasTex Solar installed 40% more solar projects in 2020 than in 2019, and Morton foresees nothing but growth. This year his company is now installing eight to 10 systems per month, though most are in residences outside of Anderson County.
“Solar has been around for decades but it’s the dramatic decrease in the price that makes it a viable alternative to people,” Morton said. “Solar is the cheapest source of newly generated electrical capacity.”
Morton operates the company with his two sons, Luke and Reece Morton, and two other employees, on the principles of integrity and transparency. They want to save local residents tens of thousands of dollars they would pay to larger companies.
“People in Palestine are being approached by companies all over the country,” Cal Morton said. “We will take the time to educate people on what we think is the best system for them. We give people options.”
EasTex Solar’s largest competitor is SunPro Solar of Louisiana, which has already installed a few systems in Palestine area homes. Kenny Vuong, a SunPro sales representative, said a similar system of 600 square feet — or 40 solar panels — would cost roughly $40,000 to install.
Luke Morton fields inquiries, calculating the costs and benefits of solar energy for more than 100 homes and properties per month. However, solar energy is not for everyone — at least not yet. Solar systems are most effective if panels are installed in an unshaded area on a roof that’s in good condition.
Some individuals choose to install panels next to their homes instead of on the roof. Other factors come into play, so sales depend on fielding questions from each homeowner who inquires about installation.
Cal Morton is banking on his ties to Palestine, where he was born and raised. He’s a grandson of former Sheriff Roy Herrington, who served Anderson County for more than 25 years.
Morton opened the business here after six years of managing projects for Texas Solar Outfitters, a Houston-based solar company that opened in 2011.
“I would like to educate as many local people as possible [about solar installation],” Morton said. “If it's done right at the right price, solar is a very compelling and very secure investment.”