Solar photovoltaic and solar thermal systems are gaining in popularity, especially in the South West United States where, according to SolarBuzz.Com, growth rates for new solar system installations by 2014 will increase by as much as 10 times that of the market size in 2009. One would think that with such phenomenal growth rates, more home manufacturers, factor built builders especially, would add solar pv and solar thermal systems as standard options.
So why don't more manufacturers do this since the solar market seems to be taking off? The answer lies primarily in the development cost of associated with providing new options of any kind to consumers. Developing new home options that require complex engineering plans and designs is not cheap. A home builder that want to add energy efficiency options in to the mix of what they offer consumers can look at having to bankroll a development project for years before they may see any real return on investment. This, primarily, is the reason most installations of solar systems happen on existing homes and not be developers themselves.
Some home builders do offer these systems as options but, quite frankly, these companies are few and far between. We project that as the industry continues to increase in terms of demand, more home builders in the South West will look to add these options in to their regular product offerings to not only meet consumer demand, but also as a new profit center. Why should these systems be offered only after market?
California comprises almost 50% of all new solar system installations annually. Even though the housing market may be in a downward spiral, new home sales, especially in the manufactured home market, are doing well due mostly to the reduced overall cost as compared to site built homes. While consumers may turn to the factory built variety of homes to save their hard earned dollars, they still want high end options available to them.
Cost savings is one of the driving forces that makes consumers want to invest in solar systems. I predict that home builders that offer homes in the South West United States will begin offering more options to meet people's needs in the solar arena, not because its good to do so necessarily, but more so because of demand and the ability to create a new profit center within existing businesses. Energy efficient home options that include PV and solar thermal systems should be standard options in the near future.
Luca Brammer is the Director of Business Development for Hallmark-Southwest Corporation. Hallmark-Southwest is a builder of California manufactured homes specializing in energy efficient home design and Net-Zero energy efficiency.