A new report confirms that solar is going mainstream.
While green houses used to be expensive and hard to build, homebuilders and industry experts say the number of newly constructed homes with preinstalled solar energy systems is skyrocketing, with tens of thousands of units entering the market.
According to a newly published report from McGraw Hill Construction and the National Association of Homebuilders, more than half of all U.S. homebuilders are expected to offer solar PV energy systems as an option in new single-family homes by 2016, up from just 12 percent in 2013.
Environment & Energy Publishing reports on the new trend, saying:
The surge in solar-ready and solar-equipped homes, according to experts, is being driven by a variety of market forces, including rising consumer awareness of renewable energy and home-based electricity generation; a steep decline in costs for solar photovoltaic (PV) systems; the marked expansion of net metering and distributed generation; and overall rising interest in "green building."
"Solar panels are a very visible manifestation of a home's construction," Kevin Morrow, NAHB's director of sustainability and green building, said in an interview. "Increasingly, people understand what they can do for them, either by reducing their environmental footprint or by reducing their energy costs."
Home-based solar systems save homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on energy bills. E&E says that single-family homes designed to maximize energy efficiency are capable of producing much or even all of their electricity needs from their own rooftops.
Utility Dive reports on the trend, saying:
Construction firm Meritage Homes has partnered with solar firm SunPower and now installs about 500 rooftop solar systems annually. The price of installation works out to $4 per watt, which the customer can pay back to Meritage as an extra charge on their mortgage. The size of the extra charge depends entirely on the size of the solar array.
"For most of our customers that choose to go solar, it boils down to a simple financial play, just like better windows or better insulation," said Meritage CEO C.R. Herro. For example, a very efficient 3.5 KW solar array could reduce electricity costs by up to 75%.
Herro says solar systems can be "cash-positive from day one," meaning the additional monthly mortgage costs are lower than what the homeowner would have paid for electricity in a conventional grid-connected home.
Numerous state and federal rebates are available to homeowners who install solar energy. Solar City explains:
Federal, state and local governments offer incredible solar tax credits and rebates to encourage homeowners to switch to renewable energy to lower their energy usage and switch to solar power. The amount of the rebate subsidy varies by program, but some are generous enough to cover up to 30% of your solar power system cost.
Furthermore, the federal government allows you to deduct 30% of your solar power system costs off your federal taxes through an investment tax credit. The credit can be rolled over to the following year if you do not expect to owe taxes that year.
Most solar rooftops are installed in sunny states, but even New Jersey (one of the top five solar states in the nation) has shown that solar energy can be successful for both homeowners and homebuilders in any state.
For more information on solar options, see:
- Energy.gov: Planning a Home Solar Electric System
- Wholesale Solar: How much will a solar electric system for my home cost?
- Build It Solar: The Renewable Energy site for Do-It-Yourselfers
- Solar Today Magazine
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