Up on the Rooftop: Solar Panels on New Homes Becoming the New Norm



Solar panels on residential rooftops are no longer just an anomaly. In fact, they’re becoming the new normal as six of the 10 largest homebuilders now include solar panel roofs as options in the construction of new homes, according to solar supplier giant SunPower Corp.

The use of solar continues to increase across the United States. Some 4,000 new homes in California were built with solar last year. Just 400 were built seven years ago during the housing boom.

“By the end of this year, we expect one of every five new production homes in California will be solar powered,” said SunPower CEO Tom Werner.

Courtesy of Fotolia

Courtesy of Fotolia

The U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2012 Year-in-Review report by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) and GTM Research found the United States has 10 times the solar capacity it had in 2007. And as more homeowners and homebuilders opt for solar panels, the price continues to fall.  The cost has dropped by 26 percent since last year. The price to install solar panels is even less when they are added at the time of construction.

Buyers of new homes like the option of being able to roll the cost of the solar panels — usually between $10,000 and $20,000 — into their mortgage and then start saving on their utility bill as soon as they move in. Solar panels are creating power for the homeowner, with the aid of federal and state subsidies, so they don’t need to buy as much from power companies.

Which states are home to the most residential solar rooftops?  The top 12 ranked by per solar are: Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii New Jersey, New Mexico, California, Delaware, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Maryland.

KB Home has built about 1,800 homes with rooftop solar since 2011, Steve Ruffner, president of the company’s Southern California unit, told Bloomberg in a Sept. 11 article. KB Home has been offering solar panel roofs on new homes in Nevada, Texas, and Colorado.  The option is in the works for Arizona next month. Meanwhile, the company is developing 22 California communities that include panels as a standard feature, he said.

Contributing Writer Michele Dawson