Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter
While firm numbers are hard to pin down, homebuilders and industry experts say the number of newly constructed homes with a solar energy system preinstalled is surging, from as little as a few hundred units a decade ago to tens of thousands of units entering the market today.
And according to newly published data 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.
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.”
Experts say estimates of energy costs savings from home-based solar systems vary widely from home to home and depend on multiple factors, including local solar intensity, the size and configuration of the solar system, the amount of energy consumed by a home’s electrical systems, and a home’s overall “thermal envelope,” or its ability to hold cool air on hot days and warm air on cold days.
Yet even with these variables, home-based solar systems have been shown to save homeowners hundreds or even thousands of dollars per year on energy bills, and single-family homes designed to maximize energy efficiency are capable of producing much — and in some cases all — of their electricity needs from their own rooftops. Read more