Cedar Hill Recognized for Solar Power Efforts

A southwest Dallas County community has recently been recognized for its efforts to go green.

The city of Cedar Hill was honored for making it easier for homeowners and businesses to become more eco-friendly when it comes to solar power.

"We took a chance to try something different, make a city investment," Mayor Rob Franke said.

On the roof of the Cedar Hill Government Center, rows of solar panels provide up to 15 percent of the needed electricity for the building, which houses offices for the school district, police department and city management.

"We're trying to be that city that isn't into the same old way of doing things," Franke said. "I'm also proud of how people embraced it and how citizens started following suit."

The effort in the community of about 50,000 residents is paying off.

Cedar Hill is now the third city in Texas to be honored with the Solsmart Gold designation.

"It's the highest certification you can get for being a solar-friendly city," Franke said. "What it means is citizens and businesses can access solar energy much more easily without a lot of government bureaucracies."

Solsmart is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Energy and city managers. The city's environmental manager, Duy Vu, tells NBC 5 his office has been working to receive the gold certification for about a year.

The city estimates 100 homeowners have installed solar panels.

"We're making it easier through the permitting process," Franke said. "It makes it easier with a one-step inspection. One inspector goes out, checks it and they can move very quickly to get their solar [panels]."

Resident Willie Gillis says he installed eight solar panels on his home about two years ago.

This, after seeing his winter electric bills.

"It was, 'Man, during the winter we're just going to have to hibernate,'" he said jokingly. "But since the solar panels, [electric bills have] dropped down, you know, a little bit as far as keeping it manageable."

Cedar Hill joins Austin and El Paso as Solsmart Gold recipients.

"You need the citizens to buy into what it means to be responsible stewards of this area," Franke said.

Cedar Hill plans on further developing solar panel initiatives as well as increasing wind power.

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