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Are Residential Solar Rooftop Units the Future or Fad?

Installing Photo Voltaic Panels (solar cells) on the roof of a home here is Florida seems like a great idea.  We have plenty of Sunshine down here.  We are the Sunshine State after all and the peak electrical energy usage tends to be on Hot Sunny Days.  If you use Google’s Satellite view you see plenty of rooftops exposed to the sun all over Florida, especially in new home communities.   Additionally, the utility companies have told the Public Utility Commission that they need an rate increase or surcharge to cover the capital costs of building new plants in order to avoid black outs and brown outs during peak periods.

solar electric savingsIn Arizona, another state like Florida where Solar Power seems to make a lot of sense.  There is a  significant Residential Solar Power industry.  According to Russell Gold of the Wall Street Journal, a battle is being waged between the Arizona Power Service (APS) and the Trade Group representing the Residential Solar Panel Firms.  According to APS the average home with Solar Panels produces about 70% of the power the home needs.  It produces an oversupply during the day and uses power from the grid at night or on cloudy overcast days.  The article uses Mr. Gene Westemeier as an example.  Mr. Westemeier had a California Firm install twelve Solar Panels on his roof and  agreed to pay $70 per month for the next twenty years for the panels on his Arizona home.  The amount he receives currently from APS more than makes up for that cost.  The problem is that now APS wants to reduce what they pay for excess power and/or they want to charge more for the power used at night when the Solar Cells are not producing.  Understandably things are starting to get political.   The Residential Solar industry and their customers have come to rely on the dollar amounts the power company pays for their power and the power companies want to cover their expenses of maintaining the connections with a bunch of little power stations disbursed all over the grid.  To a degree it’s a question of overhead allocation.  How much of a utilities’ huge overhead costs should be assigned to power produced by roof top solar units?

Maronda Homes Before Residential Solar is ready for everyday use there are a few technical innovations that need to be worked out.  First of all it does not make sense to install a complete water tight roof and then punch holes in it with Solar Panels.  The Homebuilding Industry needs an integrated roofing/PV system that meets all the code requirements and takes the place of installing a finished roof and then adding Solar Panels on top.   Secondly, Residential Solar systems need to be cost effective without government or power company subsidy.    There is still a lot of innovation and development that needs to take place before we will have the answer to the question, future or fad, but you can rest assured when a power generating roof system is developed that provides a real value, Maronda Homes will make it available to our customers because that is what we do.  Provide an Easily Observable Better Value.

About Tom Greenawalt

Tom is a Licensed Builder in the State of Florida. He has been in the construction industry for 35 years building new homes in Pittsburgh, Washington DC, and Chicago before moving to Central Florida. The majority of Tom's career has on detached housing for entry level and first time move up buyers. He was with Maronda Homes for over 15 years.

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