California Passes Solar Panel Law

Starting in 2020, all new homes constructed in California will be required to have between 2 kilowatts and 3 kilowatts of electricity sourced directly from solar panels. State legislators, whom have been considering such a measure for some time, officially voted recently to amend state building codes.

The new mandate, however, won’t be cheap to homeowners. The upfront costs of installing typical solar panels ranges from $8,000 to $12,000. The timing of the move also worries residents who lost their homes in recent wildfires in California because the mandate will add to their rebuilding costs.

More Home Owners find “Loans to Pay for Solar”

As solar panel prices drop, more home owners are finding the systems within reach.

To help cover the costs, more lenders are offering home owners help in buying solar systems, which is prompting a big growth in buying over leasing these systems.

Home owners that qualify for a loan to pay for these systems may be able to take advantage of federal tax credits that could be worth up to 30 percent of the value.

Prices for solar systems have dropped to $20,000 to $30,000 for a typical home, which has brought ownership of these systems more within reach to more households.

“It became glaringly obvious that someone needed to provide a path to ownership for these systems. It’s not a $40,000 or $50,000 expense anymore,” Jim Petersen, founder of PetersenDean, one of the largest U.S. installers, told Reuters.

Clean Power Finance, which offers solar financing products to installers, is preparing to roll out a loan to consumers soon. A large number of solar systems are being financed through, small banks, home mortgages and equity loans, Reuters reports.

Source: “Loans challenge big money’s leasing model for U.S. rooftop solar,” Reuters (Sept. 24, 2013)

Where to Find the “Greenest Homes”

In some parts of the country, energy efficient and eco-friendly homes are easier to find. The real estate brokerage Redfin recently ranked cities that have the greenest homes, basing its rankings on the number of homes for sale that boast green features—such as solar panels, LEED certification, and Energy Star appliances—as well as taking into account each city’s carbon-dioxide emissions ranking.

“The residents of these cities are reducing their environmental footprint and saving money at the same time” by lowering their monthly utility bills, says Julie Jacobson, a real estate agent with Redfin.

The 3 cities emerged on the top of the list for greenest cities for homes:

  1. San Francisco
  2. Washington, D.C.
  3. Sacramento, Calif.

Source: “10 Cities With the Greenest Homes,” AOL Real Estate (April 19, 2013)

Could Homes Soon Be Powered by Google?

The Internet giant is increasing its stake in the solar home power business with a $75 million “initial investment” to buy and own solar-panel generators on roofs of thousands of homes, The Wall Street Journal reports. 

Google is investing in Clean Power Finance, a start-up company that matches solar-panel installers with investors willing to buy rooftop solar-panel systems. “With Google’s investment, solar-panel installers can find home owners who want solar panels on their roofs but don’t want to have to pay several thousand dollars to own the system,” The Wall Street Journal article notes. 

“We’re excited about the opportunity to really help accelerate residential solar,” says Rick Needham, Google’s director of green business operations. 

The latest investment will likely help fund up to 3,000 home rooftop solar systems. In June, Google made a $280 million investment in residential rooftop solar-panel installations with SolarCity Corp. Google’s total investment in renewable energy has been more than $850 million.

Rooftop solar demand is growing, and home owners are finding paybacks too. Earlier this year, a study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that solar panels not only saved home owners money on electricity bills but also helped boost a home’s resale value, particularly for existing homes. Good news for the Placerville, El Dorado County, regions of Northern California!

Source: “Google Invests $75 Million in Home Solar Venture,” The Wall Street Journal (9/27/11)

“Lease Option” Gives a Lift to Solar Panels

More home owners may be able to use solar panels to curb electricity bills without paying any upfront costs for installation.

While home owners have shown a desire for “green” power, they may not be able to afford the $35,000 investment.

That’s why a company in San Mateo, Calif., called SolarCity, as well as other solar companies, are introducing a new lease option to get more customers signed on to use solar but without the huge upfront costs. With the lease option, customers have the option of paying either nothing upfront with higher monthly usage fees or more initially and less monthly.

“You have full flexibility in what you want to pay on a monthly basis,” says SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. Rive says that home owners are only charged for the electricity the solar panels generate at or below market rates. If the solar panels produce more electricity than they need, the home owner earns a credit.

On average, solar panels added about $5.50 per watt to a home’s resale value. In other words, a home with a typical 3.1-kilowatt solar system stands to make an extra $17,000 above the cost of a comparable, nonsolar home, according to the study by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Full article at source: “More U.S. Homes go Solar With no Upfront Costs; All Owners Pay for Is the Power They Use,” USA Today (June 14, 2011) and REALTOR® Magazine online 

Other articles relating to the Sacramento and Placerville, California regions at:  www.sierraproperties.com

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