Vail, Co.—When Marcus and Sarah Wright bought a 6-bedroom house here in November from Trinity Builders., they got far more than just a luxury mountain home. The purchase included 25 years of cut-rate electricity powered by a Sancor custom installed solar system.
The vast majority of companies have been pushing to make it simpler and more cost effective for homeowners to generate electricity from the sun, cutting away at the utility companies monopolies. The number of residential solar installations has gone up dramatically, fueled by their declining expense and government promotions.
Now many home builders have gotten in on the game. Solar systems are much less expensive to install during a home’s construction phase than after it’s complete, while many builders offer the less expensive option to lease a solar system rather than purchase one.
The trend is being cheered on by solar advocates, who state the cooperation of builders will increase solar usage at high volumes while virtually eliminating the high upfront cost of the solar equipment, which can run from $12,000 to $25,000.
“Up to this point in time, older constructions have been by far the largest percentage” of residences with solar power systems, said Cliff Barnes, managing partner of the Solar Energy Initiative. But that trend is likely to shift, he said, as more home builders incorporate solar into their business model.
Few developers have gone as far with solar as Trinity Builders, the second-largest home builder in Vail. Consumers shopping for a Trinity home in more than 6 of its developments in Vail, 2 in San Diego and a handful in Cabo San Lucas find that the vast majority the houses have solar panels. Trinity Builders plans to expand the solar program to more states, focusing on areas that have incentive programs and tax breaks to encourage solar energy use in new homes.
“We aren’t offering homes with solar power systems as an option—it’s now becoming a standard feature” in most of our communities, said Ryan Dunn, president of Trinity Builders.
Trinity Builders gives prospective buyers the option whether to purchase the solar package and generate their own electricity, or lease the package from a Trinity subsidiary, which holds complete ownership of the solar equipment and sells the electricity to the homeowner at prices Trinity guarantees will be 30% cheaper than the local utility rate.