Solar can shine in new homes

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Highlights:

  • Home builders would benefit from a streamlined solar installation plan.
  • Homeowners save thousands in electric bills with solar.
  • COSEIA backing new solar initiative.

17508Colorado consumers and the economy could greatly benefit if home builders had a more predictable and consistent program in place for the widespread installation of solar systems in new subdivisions, according to local industry and government experts.

Currently, 3,600 people are directly employed in about 230 companies in the Colorado solar industry. Another 300 net new jobs could be added based on current projections for housing starts, according to the Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association.

And when indirect and induced jobs are included, that equates to 10,790 full-time equivalent jobs in the state, according to a COSEIA analysis released last fall. That provides employee earnings of more than $534.1 million annually and a total economic output of $1.42 billion, according to COSEIA.

A typical homeowner can save more than $40,000 over 30 years by reducing energy bills 50 percent with a standard rooftop solar system on an efficient new home, COSEIA also estimates.

Leaders recently launched a Colorado New Solar Home initiative that would make it easier for builders to include solar options for all home buyers in new subdivisions.

“With new home construction finally back, including solar energy is a way to ensure long term energy savings for home buyers and good jobs across Colorado,” said John Bringenberg, vice president of the board of COSEIA.

Leaders recently gathered an energy-efficient model home in the Midtown neighborhood in unincorporated Adams company, where the master builder and main home builder in Brookfield Residential.

The homes are equipped with Dow Solar Powerhouse shingles. Dow and Brookfield are expanding their partnership to four communities in all four quadrants of metro Denver.

“We are including solar on new homes because it makes good economic sense for the buyers and shows our commitment to reducing energy use,” said Perry Cadman, Brookfield Residential executive.

“Our solar shingles are integrated with the roofing of a home so the best time to install them is when the home is being built,” said Taylor Henderson, a Dow Solar executive.

In addition being good for the pocketbooks of the homeowners, the solar panels are good for the environment.

“Each home owner can offset the carbon dioxide equivalent of 32 trees or 28 barrels of oil a year with these solar systems,” Henderson said.

“And homeowners are getting checks back from the utility because they are saving so much electricity,” he added.

Solar provides an estimated $24.3 million in environmental impact annually, according to COSEIA. That includes saving almost 300 million gallons of water that otherwise would have been consumed as part of the electricity generation process, according to COSEIA.

Rep. Dominick Moreno, a Commerce City Democrat, who represents the area, said solar leadership is good for Colorado.

“In Adams County and across the state, we need to make it easier for rooftop solar to thrive,” Moreno said.

COSEIA is working to build support for a Colorado New Solar Home Initiative  which would:

  • Provide a system in which solar reservations can be secured for a multiyear housing development with consistent and predictable cost parameters.
  • Acknowledge and encourage lower energy footprints in new homes as measured by low (better) HERS (Home Energy Rating System) score by providing benefits tied to those low scores signifying greater efficiency.
  • Reward new home buyers  for a portion of the  lifetime energy and environmental savings per home as a result of lower energy usage.
  • Encourage use of the Appraisal Institute’s solar valuation tool in every appraisal.

COSEIA is working with lawmakers, policy experts, solar installers and others to develop the new homes program.

Cadman said Brookfield seeks to deliver a product to consumers with lower HERS scores which he described as “a MPG sticker for housing. We’ve found solar makes the most economic sense as the best way to get a big drop in HERS scores.’’

Additionally, expansion of COSEIA’s Solar Friendly Communities program which provides recognition for local governments that streamline solar permitting by cutting red tape provides a good tool for encouraging more solar development.

Westminster Mayor Herb Atchison said his city pursued the recognition because solar is good for economic development and environmental sustainability.

“We achieved the first platinum-level certification in the state and believe this recognition will provide many benefits for Westminster’s citizens,” Atchison said.

Already, more and more all-solar subdivisions are cropping up across Colorado.

SolarCity, the state’s biggest installer, entered Colorado’s new home builder market two years ago.

“We expect to have installed more than one megawatt of solar on new Colorado homes by the end of the year,” said Dennis Helblig, Solar City builder sales manager.

“If we could get a consistent program, it would have a huge impact on the industry,” he said.

Interested in buying a home in Midtown? Please visit COhomefinder.com.

Have a story idea or real estate tip? Contact John Rebchook at JRCHOOK@gmail.com. InsideRealEstateNews.com is sponsored by Universal Lending, Land Title Guarantee and 8z Real Estate. To read more articles by John Rebchook, subscribe to the Colorado Real Estate Journal.

 

 

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John Rebchook

John Rebchook has more than 30 years of experience in writing and communications. As the Real Estate Editor for the Rocky Mountain News, he wrote about residential and commercial real estate for 26 years. He has won numerous awards for business stories and columns that he wrote, both as an individual and part of teams. In addition to real estate, he also covered economic development, banking and financing, the airlines, and cable TV for the Rocky. In addition, he was one of the original freelance writers for GlobeSt.com, covering commercial real estate for the Internet publication.

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