Solar sells: Homes in California's largest solar community closing faster than average

Comstock's new homes aren't garnering a price premium, but they aren't going unsold.

Some say that the real estate market will never "be" like it was before the 2008 recession. Or, at least, that it will take decades to redevelop. But that hasn't stopped a California developer, Comstock Homes, for pushing forward with what is being billed as the nation's largest solar-powered community.

That community, Heritage Springs, is sited on 50 acres near Santa Fe Springs, Calif., that used to be an oil field, according to the developer Bob Comstock. So far, 100 of the units are either under construction or have been sold since the project started about four years ago. In all, 511 homes are planned. Heritage Springs apparently represents the only new construction within a 20-mile radius.

All of the homes built in Heritage Springs are being built and certified with a GreenPoint rating, which is an amalgamation of standards set forth under the Energy Star and Built It Green program. On its Web site, Comstock claims that the homes exceed the National Energy Standard by 50 percent.

Bob Comstock says all of the homes in the development -- whether they are townhouses or single family units -- include solar panels that kind of blend into the roofing tiles and that were installed by technology integrator SunPower. His company evaluated its solar options for more than a year before choosing SunPower for two really big reasons:

  1. SunPower's technology apparently is up to 40 percent more efficient than Comstock's other considered options
  2. The panels come with a monitoring service that keeps tabs on all sorts of metrics including power being generated and whether or not everything is hunky-dory.

Southern California Edision will buy back any power that isn't being used by individual homeowners.

Here's the main thing: Bob Comstock freely admits that the housing market isn't that great. Nor is his company receiving a premium for including these technologies in its homes. But, Comstock is closing deals at twice the rate of homes without energy efficiency features. "The consumer right now is not willing to pay a premium on this, even though there can be a 10 percent to 15 percent premium when that home is resold," Comstock says. "But it's simple. We're moving stuff when others aren't."

Interestingly, smart meters and intelligent energy management displays aren't a part of the focus at Heritage Springs, although homeowners can access their SunPower accounts via the Internet to view their usage and production metrics. But here are three other "technologies" that make these homes greener than the surrounding inventory:

  • Tankless, instant-hot water heaters
  • Roof tiles that act as both insulators and protectors
  • Dual-paned windows
  • Energy-efficient fluorescent lighting

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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