The session also featured executives from solar companies SunPower and SolarCity. Both companies are active in installing solar on new homes in an increasing number of states and see it as a growing market. “When builders start building, it’s good for us all, in all segments of the solar industry in particular,” said SolarCity’s Dennis Helbig, regional manager of new builder markets. He added that solar is shown to increase the value of new homes and is a rapidly growing market.
For instance, SunPower has put solar panels on more than 13,000 new homes since it started signing agreements with homebuilders. “Since 2005 it’s over 13,000. We’ll probably do over 5,000 2014 and we have a pretty strong market share in California,” said Matt Brost, SunPower’s New Homes division national sales director. The company has focussed on large production home builders, according to Brost.
SolarCity, which installs solar on homes as well as commercial buildings, specializes in leasing of PV arrays. The company started offering solar on new homes through partnerships about five years ago, according to Helbig. “It represents about 8 percent of our business now and is rapidly growing every year,” he explained.
“The national builders make up a large part of our business,” Helbig said. “But what I found interesting, especially in the the Denver market, companies like New Town really take the lead and the mantel in pushing this program forward.”
For homes, SolarCity is offering a number of financing options, which is a make or break for many wanting solar. “There are several different way to finance solar in to your home,” Helbig said. “We use a 20-year leases to finance solar on a new home.”
SunPower developed a line of products intended for the new home market. “Trying to put the solution together without a single package was very difficult for the builder to execute on,” he said. “So we manufactured a very direct, turn-key offering. It included everything the builder would need to make their life easy.” Now the company has developed three options for builders, a standard option where every home in a project has a solar array. A line with solar as a option in two to four varieties and a standard option with two to four upgrade options.
“We did leasing early on back in 2009. We had a third-party ownership program,” Brost said. “In the end we came to the conclusion that leasing is a great program for retrofitting. We don't think its very good for new construction.”
As such it counts on the homebuilders and real estate agents to price solar energy into the cost of the home. Brost added that the Investment Tax Credit isn’t even needed to make solar make sense for new homes, when the cost is incorporated in the lease.
SunPower anticipated that last year solar in new homes in some market were recaching penetration levels around 16 percent. “In some markets like California, we believe it’s as high as 25-35 percent penetration,” Rectanus said. He added, “When builders see other builders doing this, they have to compete with them. When you get the big guys doing it the other big guys follow. Then the small guys follow….We expect that trajectory to continue.”Tweet