Solar power IN the roof, not on it
That price tag
is out of reach for many Americans, which is why most homeowners opt for a partial
solar electricity system. Most install 2 to 3 kw systems, Rivera says, which can
reduce electricity bills by 25 percent or more. Homeowners on a budget also have
the option to increase the capacity of their system over time, as they can afford
it. Most solar electricity systems are modular, so more solar panels or shingles
can be added to the current system after it's installed.
1 kw shingle system requires about 100 square feet of roof space and produces
between 1,600 and 2,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year, depending on
where you live. If electricity costs 10 cents per kilowatt-hour, each 1 kw of
solar power would reduce your electricity bill by $160 to $225 each year for the
life of the system. Solar shingles typically last 20 to 25 years, and are designed
to withstand hail and tropical-storm force winds.
bills for the future are a big part of the appeal.
rates are only heading one way -- up," says Brad Dougherty, a mechanical
engineer working with BIPV solar cells at the National Institute of Standards
Solar power is a hedge against rising energy
"It's like buying a car that has 25 years of gas
in the tank," Kaye says. "The fuel is free, so the upfront cost is the
Add in the environmental benefits, which include
reduction of greenhouse gases linked to global warming, and it's a win for consumers.
It doesn't hurt that solar power systems can also boost the
resale value of real estate.
"Homes with solar (power)
sell for more," says Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar
Energy Society. "The resale value solar adds to a house is often more
than the cost of the system."
That's music to homeowners'
ears in a rocky housing market. It's also become a selling point for homebuilders.
Developments where BIPV solar roofs are standard issue are
popping up all over California. About 30 neighborhoods there are using SunTiles,
a BIPV roofing material, on all or most of the new homes built in those developments,
including a 650-plot Lennar Homes project in Roseville, Calif., that claims to
be the world's largest all solar-powered community.