Note: This article was originally published in the April 2002 issue of Democratic Energy
The Sacramento Municipal Utility District’s (SMUD’s) Advantage Home program requires a home to consume 25-50 percent less energy for cooling than the existing state energy code allows. When coupled with rooftop solar cells, these Solar Advantage homes are nearly energy self-sufficient on an annual basis. A Solar Advantage Home can result in $450 in yearly energy cost savings for homeowners.
Nine buildings in 15 new residential communities have committed to an initial 133 homes producing 275 kilowatts (kW) of solar powered electricity. More than 20 of these homes were completed in 2001.
Morrison Homes, unveiled its first such home in July 2001 in its Bel Lago subdivision in the Elk Grove area. The house will cost about $8,500 to $9,000 more than other homes in Bel Lago.
A Beazer Homes house in the Roseview subdivision in Antelope will be topped with solar roof tiles will sell for about $10,000 more than typical houses in the subdivision.
California has a handsome financial incentive for photovoltaics, a rebate of $4.50 per watt, up to 50% of the installed cost of a solar power system (capped at $4,500).
Just outside Sacramento, in the town of Lincoln, CA, another planned community will have solar electric power integrated as a standard feature of the new homes. In April 2002, AstroPower, Inc. announced an agreement with Premier Homes that will supply a minimum of 50 solar electric home power systems. The companies have established a goal of building a total of 250 homes powered by AstroPower solar electric power systems by 2003. Premier Homes will offer AstroPower’s 2.4-kilowatt SunLine packaged solar electric power system as a standard feature and homebuyers will have the option to upgrade their systems to 3.2 kilowatts and include a battery backup system. The larger systems with battery backup could be big enough to be considered a truly self-sufficient energy home.
In January 2002, SMUD announced that it had reached the 10 megawatts (MW) milestone in solar electric power installations, enough to meet the annual needs of more than 3,300 homes. The 10 megawatts in over 1,000 systems represents over half of all of the grid-connected photovoltaic (PV) systems in the United States. The growth in solar installations in SMUD’s territory is likely to continue as more than 2,000 SMUD customers have signed letters of intent to purchase their own net metered solar power systems. The demand for solar has resulted in the opening of the CalSolar PV factory in Sacramento operated by TerraSolar Inc under license to Energy Photovoltaics Inc. Production began in 2001 and provides most of the PV modules used in the SMUD PV programs.