As more Americans look for ways to save on their utility bill, Century Communities, a leading Colorado-based home builder, is offering buyers a solution with its solar leasing program.
A recent report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration shows that the average monthly electricity bill has risen from $78.24 in 2010 to $107.28 in 2012. Century Communities saw an opportunity to make solar power more widely available to homebuyers – and found the ideal community to do so.
Candelas, Life Wide Open
The 1,500-acre master-planned community in Arvada, Colo., known as Candelas boasts picturesque mountain views. More than 13 miles of nature trails run through the community, while more than 11,500 acres of protected public lands surround the community and the Rocky Flats Wildlife Refuge sits just to its north. A community garden is open for residents to grow food naturally. It’s not an exaggeration to say that nature and sustainability is a running theme throughout Candelas.
That’s why Century Communities felt Candelas would be the ideal community to launch a solar leasing program. “As a standard feature, homeowners get a 1.96-kilowatt, eight-panel solar system,” says Mike Davison, director of marketing for Century Communities. “What we do is pay for a monthly lease for the consumer — they get a 20-year solar lease that is prepaid by us, so in the long-run, we are helping buyers save in electricity costs.”
In addition to offering the program, the solar panels will be maintained for buyers so they don’t have to worry about the costs and time associated with keeping the system running.
Today's solar panels can be sleek and attractive
Century is leasing the panels through solar panel company SolarCity. In addition to saving buyers money, their systems won’t be a blight to the community either, Davidson says. “People gravitate toward SolarCity’s panels because they are very efficient, but they also look nice — they’re sleek and good-looking.”
Offering this kind of system required a lot of coordination between Century Communities and Colorado utility provider Xcel Energy. “There was a little groundwork done before all of this could happen, because Xcel hadn’t worked with a homebuilder before,” Davidson says. He adds that working through issues, such as transfer of ownership, was complicated, but is now not a problem.
Do It Yourself?
Buyers also have the option to upgrade to a 5.39-kilowatt (kW) system. To put all of this in perspective, it’s important to understand what’s been the norm in energy costs. The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2012, “the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,837 kWh, an average of 903 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month.”
To take on a project like installing a solar panel system on your own, you could buy a system at a home improvement store for anywhere from around $150 for the smallest of systems (usually around 100 watts) to more than $20,000 for more sophisticated systems (about 10,000 watts, or 10 kW). It’s important to keep in mind, though, that those costs don’t include installation.
Saving Time and Money
Homeowner Kari Cochran and her husband purchased their home in Candelas in May 2013. Cochran and her husband were attracted to the community’s location and the many trails and parks. She says another attraction was the solar leasing program offered by Century Communities. “At our old house, we had vaulted ceilings — and no bedroom ceiling fans — so it was a challenge to keep energy costs low,” Cochran says. “We were very excited about the solar leasing program through Century. … We were drawn to Candelas because of the renewable/sustainable ideas and appreciated that Century has gone the extra step to lease them for us for the first 20 years.”
And, because of Century Communities partnership with SolarCity, Cochran says maintenance and monitoring of the solar panels and system is extremely easy. “We don’t really have to worry about the panels,” Cochran says. “The panels are not only a huge cost benefit, but a huge time saver for us as well.”
Davidson says that Century Communities will conduct surveys with its homeowners to gauge the success of the program and to determine just how much homeowners are saving in energy costs with the system.