Nearly 80 percent of Americans would like a solar power option when they shop for a new home.
More, 84 percent of Americans aged 25 to 49, support the solar option, according to a Roper survey for Sharp USA.
That's because the gold in golden sunshine may be more valuable than the ore.
Not only does solar power help reduce or zero out energy bills, it can help slow or stop the global warming clock, reduce fossil-fueled pollutants, put tax benefits in the pockets of homeowners and increase home values by tens of thousands of dollars.
By the turn of the decade, 1 in 8 Americans may actually have a shot at that option.
California's Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed into law Senate Bill 1, known as the governor's "Million Solar Roofs Initiative", which, in part, will make solar power a standard option on all new single-family homes in developments of 50 or more units beginning January 1, 2011.
In the Golden State, where 1 of ever 8 Americans live, California's Public Utilities Commission earlier this year approved a landmark $3.2 billion "California Solar Initiative" which included subsidies to cover a third of the cost of residential solar systems large enough to supply all of a home's electricity needs and fund solar systems on 1 million buildings statewide -- commercial, public and residential -- by 2017.
The 3,000 megawatts of electricity expected to be generated by the initiative was more than seven times the 400-megawatt level of installed solar power available in all 50 states at the time the initiative was approved.
However, the California Solar Initiative did not have the authority to mandate provisions found in the newly signed Million Solar Roofs Initiative, including the solar power option for new homes.
Other provisions of the new initiative include:
More energy savings dollars returned to the people. The first initiative required all electric providers, upon request, to make available to eligible customer generators, contracts for net energy metering on a first-come-first-served basis until the time that the total rated generating capacity used by eligible customer generators exceeds 0.5 percent of the electric service provider's aggregate customer peak demand. The new initiative raises that level to 2.5 percent, which will allow more customers credit for solar generated but unused power.
Solar power benefits to more people. Before the newest initiative was signed only customers of major power companies -- Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric -- benefited from the old initiative. The new law expands benefits to those served by smaller municipal-owned utility companies.
While some critics are already balking at the initiative suggesting the new home option could force buyers to choose granite countertops, hardwood floors, spas and other existing options over energy efficiency, most home owners with solar systems can use the sun and have their cake too.
New home buyers who forgo traditional new home options for a solar system, will be rewarded with a near zero energy bill (A service hook up fee will be charged to meter excess electricity and electricity used during rare times when there's not enough solar power), which, over time, can pay for those new home options originally rejected.
What's more, in today's high energy-cost world, solar power improvements can boost home values by tens of thousands of dollars as one of a homes best cost-vs.-value improvements.
As long ago as 1998 in "Evidence of Rational Market Evaluations For Home Energy Efficiency" and again in 1999, in "More Evidence of Rational Market Evaluations For Home Energy Efficiency", energy consultant Rick Nevin, of the consulting and research firm ICF International, said for every $1,000 energy-savings a home's value rises nearly $20,000.
"The research we've done, I would hope, should reassure people that they aren't the only ones who value energy efficiency. This was conducted in the 1990s when fuel prices were low and this was not front page news, but people were willing to pay more to spend less on energy," said Nevin at the time.
nemmar.com reported Nevin's then little known pioneering effort in energy conservation-related home values and his findings were widely disputed by appraisers and others.
More recently, in 2004, data compiled by San Jose, CA-based solar power analyst Andrew Black, "Financial Payback On Residential California Solar Electric Systems" for the American Solar Energy Society, confirmed Nevin's findings.
Black said spending $17,500 on a 2.6-kilowatt solar setup for a California house trims an $80 monthly electricity bill to $7 and raises home value $17,600.
Big solar power systems can recoup as much as 157 percent of their cost in value returned to the home vs. 75 percent for kitchen remodels, Black reported.