Big Builders Turn to Solar Panels, Creating Challenge for Trusses

Originally published by: Builder OnlineOctober 20, 2014

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A national program utilized by many of the country’s largest home builders has hit an ultra-low mark in the battle for cost effective solar power. 

PetersenDean Roofing & Solar’s Solar4America campaign is offering electricity to consumers nationwide at under six cents per kWh or less. This six cent threshold makes solar power cost competitive with traditional energy, according to the Department of Energy's SunShot Initiative. The program, which recently launched in Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada, and Texas, will be available in New Mexico, Colorado, and Georgia in the first quarter of 2015. In addition, the company sources solar panels and all system components from domestic producers.

The falling price of residential solar installations is making the technology more affordable and enticing for consumers. The Solar4America program attracted more than 1,000 new customers in the first weekend of the Arizona launch by offering a rate of five cents fixed for 30 years, says CEO Jim Petersen. 

“Solar4America markets and sells American-made solar energy systems to consumers at a rate that is so low that the net price over 30 years (with all of the tax rebates) yields a kilowatt hour rate at under seven cents in California and much lower in other states,” says Petersen. 

The steady rise of solar as a renewable energy source is the driving force of the company’s expansion. Recent reports show that the payback period of solar power systems is now as low as three years. 

“As the economy continues to recover and solar becomes more affordable, we have seen huge increases in demand across the board with both residential and commercial installations. We estimate that roofing and solar manufacturing has grown about 400 percent from last year and is only going to grow more from here, especially as the costs come down further and more and more municipalities change their energy policies to require solar,” says Petersen. 

As prices continue to drop, more builders and developers are offering solar as standard in their new communities and Petersen expects the trend to continue, even though many solar rebate programs administered by states and utilities have begun to expire. “Even without rebates, solar has now reached a point of price competitiveness with the electric utilities in many areas and with grid prices typically rising about 5 percent each year, solar makes a lot of financial sense,” he says.