Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Tipping Point for Home Rooftop Solar?

sunlight shadow and reflection (7)My fiancee and I are in the process of buying a home, which means I'm constantly worried about what amenities that are popular now will still be popular when we're thinking about selling the place. Granite countertops are the big thing now, but will they still be popular 10 years down the road, or will something else be the next big thing?

I'd never have guessed that the next big thing is rooftop solar:
Solar panels are the next granite countertops: an amenity for new homes that’s becoming a standard option for buyers in U.S. markets. At least six of 10 largest U.S. homebuilders led by KB Home include the photovoltaic devices in new construction, according to supplier SunPower Corp. (SPWR) Two California towns are mandating installations, and demand for the systems that generate electricity at home will jump 56 percent nationwide this year, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

In the next six months, homebuilders in California and the expensive-energy states will be going solar as a standard, and just incorporating it into the cost of the house like any other feature,” Jim Petersen, chief executive officer of the PetersenDean Inc., the largest closely held U.S. roofing and solar contractor, said in an interview.

Lashing panels to roofs during construction is about 20 percent cheaper than after a house is built. Homeowners who can afford the extra $10,000 to $20,000 cost in return for free power threaten the business of traditional utilities such as Edison International of California or Kansas’ Westar Energy Inc. Power companies are losing business because they can’t cut their rates in line with the tumbling prices of residential solar systems. Those cost about $4.93 a watt in the first quarter, down 16 percent from a year earlier, according to the Washington-based solar association.
It makes sense to promote home solar even if you don't own a system - every home powered by solar is one less home that needs to be powered by a multi-billion-dollar central power plant.

If you're interested in home solar, check out Sungevity - you get a discount and the National Wildlife Federation (my day job) gets a donation. Oh, and the planet gets a tiny bit saved. Everybody wins!

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