2020 Solar Mandate: Debunking Myths

The solar mandates are upon us; here are the things to know

By MARK VOGEL

All eyes are on California at this crucial moment in history as the 2020 mandates requiring all new single-family homes to include solar take effect. While the golden state is taking the lead in pressing forward with policies that require renewable energy, there is a national focus on both solar and battery storage as real solutions to climate change. As similar policies become more prevalent across the country, homebuilders everywhere will need a keen understanding of how solar works.

They need to be prepared to answer any and all questions homebuyers will have. Following below, we identify and briefly address the most common misconceptions or myths, builders, and buyers typically mention regarding solar.

1) Our home prices are going to increase more than other builders and we won’t be competitive. According to California’s new home solar mandate, all homes will be required to have similar sized systems. That makes for a level playing field on which all builders start off needing to meet the same system requirements. Of course, some builders will prove themselves more skilled and able to distinguish themselves in the market, either on price of some other feature of the PV systems they install, such as energy efficiency or productivity.

2) Neighbors and the community will object to the installation of solar PV systems on aesthetic grounds, saying that will lower the value of their homes. Solar has advanced over the years. Today’s PV arrays have attractive, sleek designs that blend in with roof layouts.

3) We can only install solar on certain roof types. This is not true. We can install solar on any type of roof. It just has to be done the right way, by a licensed professional with longevity in the market to service the homeowners after closing.

4) Getting our employees up to speed on solar is too complicated, time-consuming, and expensive. Builders need to understand how to communicate the value that PV systems offer to their buyers. Hiring certified solar appraisals is a good way to accomplish this. While most of the larger builders and their vendors have their marketing and sales professionals well indoctrinated into the mechanics of solar power, medium and smaller builders may not be as well equipped. To fill this void, it would be smart for these builders to affiliate with experts, especially since the marketing and sales staffs will need to be fully informed about solar products and performance.

5) I’ll have all of the labor and supplies I’ll need. Builders often have misconceptions about the labor and supply they’re going to need in order to meet customer and market demands, so they need to lock-down contracts now. They also need to understand how other trades are impacted by the mandates and ensure that all contractors, subs and others understand solar. For example, plumbers need to understand where to direct vents and roofers need to ensure the system fits.

6) Solar is just too expensive. Financing options will play an important role, as well. Builders need to get with their solar installer to determine which program is best suited for their buyers. Ownership should always be offered. Lease or PPA-adds can be offered at virtually no cost to the builder, but the various options present a different set of circumstances for the buyer. We work with builders on both the purchase and the lease options.

There are practical differences in cost, maintenance, terms, opportunities for financial offsets, savings, returns on investment, tax credits, and other items that all have to be carefully explained to buyers whether it’s a lease or purchase.

These are just a few of the main misconceptions builders should be aware of, but there will be more. PetersenDean is one of the nation’s largest roofing and solar companies and we operate across seven states. We have a large and well-trained labor force that continues to expand as we help builders with their solar programs. We know that educating both builders’ sales staffs and builders’ buyers is extremely important to successful execution.

Thoughtful legislation to reduce greenhouse gases at the national, state and local levels is creating a new outlook for the future of renewable energy, with solar at the epicenter. The mandate in California is just the beginning. We are indeed at the cusp of a new generation of intelligent energy partnerships, production, and use, and homebuilders play a huge role.

Mark Vogel is President and Chief Operating Officer at Petersen-Dean, Inc. He has over 15 years of experience in the residential and commercial construction industry. Founded in 1984 by Jim Petersen, Petersen-Dean, Inc. is the largest, full-service, privately-held roofing and solar company in the United States. Specializing in new residential and commercial construction, the company works with some of the nation’s largest builders and developers. To learn more, visit petersendean.com.

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