Clean Power

Published on October 27th, 2013 | by Zachary Shahan


Solar Panels The New Granite Countertops, But Not For Long…

October 27th, 2013 by  

Originally published on Cost of Solar.

Home solar panels are “the new granite countertops,” according to Tom Werner, CEO of US-based SunPower, one of the largest solar panel companies in the world. What does that mean? That means that, for an increasing number of new homeowners, solar panels are becoming an add-on right from the beginning. Furthermore, Werner is confident home solar panels will move beyond the “granite countertops phase” to mass adoption rather quickly.

“You’re going to see a transition from novelty, to granite countertops, to mainstream option,” Werner said. “We’re rapidly passing the equivalent of a ‘countertops decision’ to a ‘no-brainer.’ You just do it.”

best solar panelsImage Credit: Greens MPs / CC BY-NC-ND

If, like me, you’re not that familiar with the granite countertop thing, Bloomberg notes that a lot of new home buyers have decided to pay $5,000 to $10,000 for a granite kitchen countertop that is expected to last longer than a Formica-style countertop and would also be made of natural materials.

The thing with solar panels is that you’re probably saving money from Day 1 if you incorporate the solar panel purchase into your mortgage. The solar panels will cut your home’s electricity bill dramatically. You may even get paid a pretty penny when you generate more electricity than you use. And installing the solar panels as part of new home construction is cheaper than adding them onto an existing home (approximately 20% cheaper). Like granite countertops, there is a financial benefit in the long term, but there’s also a financial benefit right from the beginning.

Solar Panels For Home Growing Fast

SunPower has now supplied over 10,000 homes with solar panels, and about 4,000 of those were built in California last year. Apparently, according to Werner, approximately 20% of all new homes in the state will include solar panels this year. And that percentage is only expected to go up in the coming years.

At least 6 of the 10 largest US homebuilders now incorporate solar panels into the construction of some new homes. A couple of cities in California — Lancaster and Sebastopol — actually require solar panels be incorporated into all new homes. Lancaster led the way, but then Sebastopol actually 1-upped Lancaster by requiring solar on all new commercial buildings as well as all new residential buildings.

But perhaps the most exciting stats regarding all of this come from one of the largest roofing companies in the US, PetersenDean. Bloomberg reports: “PetersenDean installed photovoltaic systems on about 7.5 percent of the 100,000 roofs it built last year. CEO Petersen said he expects that figure to double this year.”

“We’ve picked up at least a dozen new subdivisions since mid-March, and all of them have incorporated it into the cost of construction,” Petersen noted.

California is clearly leading the way, but other states are up there as well, and California is actually just #6 when it comes to solar power capacity per capita. The story seems clear: solar power is the future.

The Republican Mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris, who wants Lancaster to become the solar power capital of the universe, noted: “Economically, there’s absolutely no reason not to do this. Solar’s the only way to go.”

Indeed, in 13 states, investing in solar panels for your home is (on average) supposed to offer a better ROI than investing in the S&P 500. In 43 states, you get more money back than you would if you put that money into a 5-year CD. We recently found out that, for an average middle-class family that goes the solar leasing route (an extremely popular option where it’s available), the yearly savings come to approximately $600.

It will take some time for people to catch on to the financial benefits of going solar. But as more and more people do, home solar power growth will likely speed up. At some point, it should hit the disruptive technology “tipping point” that we’ve seen with many other technologies. We’ve seen it happen with cell phones, smartphones, personal computers, laptops, CDs, VCRs, DVD players, and much more. Solar panels will surely have their day in the sun. It’s only a matter of time. We’re already at the beginning of the steep growth curve.

Join the solar rooftop revolution!

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About the Author

is tryin' to help society help itself (and other species) with the power of the word. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director and chief editor, but he's also the president of Important Media and the director/founder of EV Obsession and Solar Love. Zach is recognized globally as a solar energy, electric car, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, and Canada. Zach has long-term investments in TSLA, FSLR, SPWR, SEDG, & ABB — after years of covering solar and EVs, he simply has a lot of faith in these particular companies and feels like they are good cleantech companies to invest in. But he offers no professional investment advice and would rather not be responsible for you losing money, so don't jump to conclusions.

  • rarnedsoum great Job and well said , i think in a few years better solar panels will be offered which will be lighter and last longer and be cost effective

    • Bob_Wallace

      Solar panels built today should last at least 40 years. That is, the oldest panels that we’ve tracked are now 40 years old and show no signs of quitting.

      Solar is already cost effective. Solar PPAs are being signed in the US for $0.05/kWh. That is very cheap power when one considers that it is produced during peak demand hours.

      Lighter? Most of the weight is the cover glass.

  • kayla_smithh

    Recently I was really, really low on cash and debts were eating me from all sides! That was UNTIL I decided to make money on the internet. I went to surveymoneymaker dot net, and started filling in surveys for cash, and surely I’ve been far more able to pay my bills!! I’m so glad, I did this!!! With all the financial stress these years, I really hope all of you will give it a chance. – pkj1

  • Brandie Black

    I learned a lot about solar panels and how they are growing throughout the world. I also have learned a lot about counter tops from reading the article. I was looking at some granite countertops in Edmonton when I was looking for a house to buy, but I am still trying to think which add ons I can afford.

  • JamesWimberley

    $5,000 to $10,000 for granite worktops? I paid around $15,000 some years back for a complete small new kitchen in my house in Spain, with “granite” worktops, units, and tiling. It’s not real granite of course, but a much more usable and uniform resin-and-stone composite. One American DIY website estimates $4,000 for a high-end Sllestone countertop of 54 sq. ft. including installation:

  • rarnedsoum

    Odd analogy by the CEO Werner.

    So what if solar becomes as popular as granite?

    90% of those solar modules being sold and installed, that are as desirable as granite, are not SunPower. So why bring it up?

    My last home had granite, it was a pain.

    Not only do you have to seal it annually, but it still stains, and there seems to be a risk with the radon radiation emission from this natural stone material.

    My current home we decided on Silestone quartz and its been trouble free, maintenance free, and fantastic. I even use it as a cutting board, and no scratches as of yet, after 2 years of heavy use.

    I would definitely buy it again.

    So where does that put SP if its analogous to granite?! 🙁

    • GreenGoose

      At Silestone quartz. Solar Panels are the wiser choice when choosing how to provide energy for your home. You are either are going to pay what the energy company charges you or you are going to look into an alternative where you can save money but still get the same energy.

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