Texas homeowners who invest in photovoltaic solar panels or windmill generators have a new incentive this month. According to a Dallas Morning News report, Green Mountain Energy Co. has announced a policy of buying excess power at retail rates from Texas customers whose renewable-energy systems generate more power in some months than their homes use (" Green Mountain Energy to buy power from customers with solar panels," by Elizabeth Souder). Texas law requires homes that sell power back to the grid to be equipped with dual meters, one to measure incoming power and one to measure outgoing power. That way, utilities can charge customers retail rates for power from the street, but only pay wholesale for excess power that the home feeds back to the grid. Green Mountain is offering a better deal — a power buy-back at retail rates when the homes make more juice than they use. The catch for homeowners, and the benefit to the utility, is that the home has to sign up as a full-time customer for Green Mountain's sustainably-produced juice. It's a sign of the times in the Lone Star State. With renewable energy taking on a leading role in Federal energy policy, Texas could be poised to tap into wind and solar in a major way. Already, Texas is the nation's biggest producer of commercial wind-generated electricity (this state website provides full details on Texas' wind-power capacity). As Federal dollars flow into renewable infrastructure projects, the state's alternative power industry is likely to boom. The best wind conditions for power generation are found in Panhandle hill country. But coastal regions, especially in counties from Corpus Christi south to the Mexican border, also offer strong, reliable winds. Taking advantage of that asset, energy firm Iberdrola Renewables has just completed a $440-million wind farm in Kenedy County that can power more than 17,000 houses in the San Antonio market. Residential-scale wind power also offers potential, but it's a trickier proposition. The coastal city of Corpus Christi, for example, is currently working on a new ordinance to regulate single home-sited windmills, according to the Caller-Times (" Council to talk wind energy," by Sara Foley). Hot issues include the size of towers, the minimum lot size required to site a tower, and the noise the windmills will be allowed to make. As Galveston and nearby areas struggle to recover from last fall's Hurricane Ike, life is already complicated without trying to figure out solar or wind energy. However, some voices are calling for alternative power to play a role in the area's rebound. The Houston Chronicle's Robert Stanton blogs on that topic here (" Changing winds of time may be heading to a community near you"). Here's another Texas state government website with more information on wind power. And for homeowners interested in hooking up with Green Mountain Energy Company, here's information on services and rates.