We said it before — specifically, last month — and now we’re saying it again: New homes in the future will be ever more frequently solar powered.
Last month, we published a look at how KB Home is one of the big homebuilders that see solar as popular and increasingly affordable option for new homes. In July, KB Home had acquired two new tracts of land in San Diego county for solar home communities.
The news is continuing to build: In an article in Bloomberg last week, Justin Doom writes that “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. 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.”
He goes so far to say that “[s]olar panels are the next granite countertops: an amenity for new homes that’s becoming a standard option for buyers in U.S. markets.”
Two key paragraphs from the article:
- 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.
- A 3-kilowatt system, enough to power a typical mid-size home, costs less than $15,000 and can be rolled into a mortgage, said Tom Werner, CEO of San Jose, California-based SunPower.“You embed it into your home mortgage, you’re cashflow positive month one,” he said. That’s similar to how some buyers decided to pay $5,000 or $10,000 for a kitchen countertop that would be from natural materials and would outlast a Formica-style top. “You’re going to see a transition from novelty, to granite countertops, to mainstream option,” Werner said in an interview. “We’re rapidly passing the equivalent of a ‘countertops decision’ to a ‘no-brainer.’ You just do it.”
To the first point: this is why we’re seeing so much upheaval in state-level mandates and incentives for renewable energy. As more people adopt solar, and as government programs encourage homeowners to do so, energy companies are seeing huge threats to their business models. That’s why net metering and other incentives have been placed on the chopping block in at least 13 states this year. But as we just saw in California with AB327, support for solar spans such a broad range of the population that these efforts have so far failed completely.
I’m greatly encouraged by these recent trends in solar adoption, and I think the fact that the big homebuilders are also seeing the light will be one of the big milemarkers when we look back down our path to a low-carbon economy.