BusinessWeek weighed in on solar, its effect on the housing industry, new homes, price savings and valuations of solar homes in Adam Aston’s article, “Will Demand for Solar Homes Pick Up?
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As global financial markets melted down in October, Congress handed a gift to America’s green energy industry: It renewed and broadened a set of tax credits for wind and solar power, geothermal, tidal energy, and more. The move did little to prop up eco-energy stocks, which have followed oil prices down. But the news did send a positive jolt to one of the economy’s darkest sectors: homebuilding. Or, more specifically, solar-powered homes. Consumers recognize that green homes “save money month in, month out,” says Rick Andreen, president of Shea Homes Active Lifestyles Communities in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Most of the sweeteners Congress conjured up will go to big projects such as wind farms. But aspiring buyers of green homes will benefit, too. The revised 30% one-time investment credit for solar means that a buyer who installs a typical $25,000 solar panel system on his roof will get $7,500 in income tax credits, up from $2,000 under the old standard. How long that investment takes to pay off will depend on local rules and utility rates. In markets with the most costly power, such as California, Connecticut, and New Jersey, the pretax compound rate of return on a typical home solar system will be better than 15% per year, says Andy Black, chief executive of OnGrid Solar, an industry research firm.
The fresh credits may mark a turning point for solar-powered homes. During the housing boom, when mortgages and energy were both cheap, green power was not a hot option; typical home buyers preferred granite countertops to solar panels. But even before the subprime crash, builders began to see rising interest in sun-powered dwellings. Ryness Co., which compiles sales data for homebuilders, found in a recent survey that homes with solar systems were outselling others by as much as 2:1 in 13 California communities.