Solar panels are now a standard option for new homes in some US markets. The panels are especially popular in California, with two California towns actually mandating installations. Six of the 10 largest US homebuilders include solar panels as an option in new construction, led by KB Home. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, demand for the systems will increase by 56 percent this year alone.
Jim Petersen of PetersenDean Inc., a large US roofing and solar contractor, said: “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.”
The cost of installing panels to roofs is about 20 percent cheaper if done during construction than afterward. The installation adds from $10,000 to $20,000 to the cost and can simply be incorporated into the mortgage.
The increase in solar power threatens traditional utilities such as Edison International in California. The rates of the companies can no longer compete with the costs of solar system power.
Tom Werner, CEO of SunPower in California, says that a 3 kilowatt system will power a typical midsize home and costs less than $15,000: “You embed it into your home mortgage, you’re cashflow positive Month 1."
There are often state and federal subsidies that promote transition to solar heating. As a result of the increase in solar-powered houses, less power is bought from traditional utilities, but the utilities still need to keep up the grid. They do so by increasing rates to those who do purchase power.
KB Home is currently developing 22 communities in California that include solar panels as a standard feature. They also sell solar as an option on homes in Nevada, Texas and Colorado, and plan to offer it in Arizona beginning this fall. For much more, see this article.
Meanwhile, IKEA, the Swedish furniture company, is moving into the solar panel market in the United Kingdom. It will make its standard 3.36 kilowatt system available in all of its UK locations in October. The panels will retail for about $9,200, but that will include installation. Included in the package will be consultation, design service, maintenance and energy monitoring.