This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 01, 2006

California Builders Include Solar Power on Hundreds of Homes

Two California homebuilders—The Grupe Company and Victoria Homes—are building hundreds of new homes that will feature solar power systems and advanced, energy-efficient designs. The new homes will meet about half of their electricity needs using SunTile solar power systems from PowerLight Corporation. The Grupe Company is currently building 144 homes near Sacramento, creating the second largest "Zero Energy Home" Community in the United States. The Victoria Homes developments in Southern California will be designed and built under ConSol's ComfortWise energy efficiency program, which works with builders to combine energy saving technologies with energy efficient design and testing. The ComfortWise program yields homes that are 30 percent more efficient than the national Model Energy Code standard and 15 percent more efficient than the California Residential Energy Efficiency Standards. Since all the new homes will combine energy efficiency with solar power, homeowners are expected to achieve annual savings of up to 70 percent on their utility bills. See the PowerLight press releases about The Grupe Company and Victoria Homes, as well as the Victoria Homes and ConSol Web sites.

Solar power installations on homes and small businesses may get less publicity than large projects at corporations and universities, but they also add a significant contribution to U.S. solar power production. On February 1st, California's Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) connected its 10,000th solar customer to the grid. The 10,000 customers provide the utility with more than 70 megawatts of solar power. Of course, California provides substantial rebates for solar power systems, and federal tax credits are also available now. How much do state rebates help? A new study from DOE's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) suggests that California's solar rebates do not directly affect solar module costs, but do drive down the costs of the remaining electrical components. Unfortunately, the rebates can also result in some price inflation for solar power systems. See the PG&E press release and download either the executive summary of the new LBNL report (PDF 141 KB) or the full report (PDF 2.1 MB). Download Adobe Reader.