Elected officials and corporate America may finally be waking up to that fact that the world is no longer able to produce the coal and fossil fuels necessary to sustain America's energy needs, and that renewable energy holds the promise of a better future for this and future generations of Americans. For builders, this realization represents an ideal time to consider a new, profitable business model that includes solar power in new home developments. California's Million Solar Roofs Bill (SB 1), effective January 1, 2007, is the first step in what promises to be a jump start to an energy paradigm shift among property owners across the country.
"With this new law, California is on pace to becoming the Saudi Arabia of the sun," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, Clean Energy Advocate with Environment California, the leading sponsor of the Million Solar Roofs bill. "The sky is no limit when it comes to how much of our energy can come from solar power. With high energy prices, rolling blackouts, and growing air pollution problems, everyone in California will benefit from the building of a million solar roofs in the next ten years."
California Senator Kevin Murray, author of the new law, agrees with Del Chiaro. Murray, speaking at Solar Power 2006, dubbed the largest business-to-business solar energy event in the history of the United States, said that marketing solar energy to the public is essential if new laws like SB 1 are to be successful. "The technology is already here and it's reliable, but the message needs to be relayed to the general public that solar energy is not some future technology only celebrities or the extremely wealthy can afford."
Corporate America seems willing to help move that marketing effort along. Sharp Electronics Corporation, the Mahwah, N.J.-based marketing and sales subsidiary of Japan's Sharp Corporation, unveiled a new brand campaign designed to deepen the company's connection with consumers and strengthen its presence in the residential market. Together with home equity financing options through CitiMortgage and the launch of a complete Solar Racking System, Sharp's branding efforts will make solar power more accessible to consumers than ever before.
"We're honored to be the market leader in the industry, particularly during such an exciting time of accelerated growth and heightened public interest," said Marc Cortez, director of marketing, Solar Energy Solutions Group, Sharp. "It's a responsibility we take seriously by learning from and communicating with our customers, so that in turn we can offer the highest-performing and most reliable solar solutions."
Sharp's new brand identity consists of two distinct elements that address installers and individual consumers with efforts that make it easier than ever to go solar. The "It's On" portion of the campaign highlights the company's ongoing commitment to installers by providing them with new systems, tools and products that will help them grow their businesses. For example, Sharp's new Solar Racking System provides residential and commercial contractors with the unique advantage of a simplified installation, as well as improved aesthetics and superb reliability.
Sharp's "Hello, Sunshine" slogan is meant to engage and educate a growing customer base on the benefits of solar energy. A recent Roper survey commissioned by Sharp demonstrated that consumers are extremely receptive to solar power, with eight out of 10 Americans believing that homebuilders should offer solar power as an option for all new home construction. Two-thirds of those surveyed were willing to pay a premium for homes that have solar systems installed, when told that solar homes have a proven higher resale value, and one-half of respondents would spend up to 10 percent more for a solar-equipped house.
To further engage these consumers and help finance a solar installation, Sharp has teamed with CitiMortgage to offer a home equity financing program for solar energy systems. Instead of dipping into savings or applying for a standard loan through a bank, homeowners can use the equity in their homes to help offset the cost of installing solar panels on the roof.
"This conference will be the largest solar event in U.S. history. We are seeing strong participation from players outside of the traditional 'solar chain' like utilities, raw material suppliers, financiers, homebuilders, startups, and large end-users," said Julia Judd, Executive Director of the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA) and Solar Power 2006 Conference Chair. "A combination of factors, including the long-term commitment by California and the softening of some international markets, has made the U.S. a much more attractive market for international solar companies. We are seeing a huge increase in international participation, especially those from Germany, China and Taiwan," added Judd.
In addition to Sharp, the Home Depot and partner BP Solar, are marketing a solar system and installation program to the general public called, "Now Solar Power is as Easy as 1-2-3." Interested parties can go online and sign up for a free, in-home consultation.
Attendance at the week-long Solar Power 2006 in San Jose, California, is expected to more than triple to about 5,000 attendees, up from 1,300 last year. Some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley were on hand, such as keynote speaker Vinod Khosla, founder of Sun Microsystems, as well as California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Solar Power 2006 is organized by SEPA and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).
Given the state of energy in America and the crises surrounding our current infrastructure, it would be a breathe of fresh air (pun intended) for my children to have to explain to their children what fossil fuels were similar to how I struggle describing how I listened to vinyl albums on record players.