SunPower Corp. (SPWR), the second-largest U.S. solar manufacturer, expects photovoltaic panels to become a standard feature in new home construction in the U.S., Chief Executive Officer Tom Werner said.
The company supplies seven of the top 10 U.S. home builders, including KB Home (KBH), Lennar Corp. (LEN) and Standard Pacific Corp. (SPF), and almost 10,000 new homes have panels from San Jose, California-based SunPower, Werner said today in an interview.
SunPower expects to double its customer base to 300,000 rooftop systems on homes and businesses by 2015 from 150,000 last year as demand for smaller systems outpaces installations of large, utility-scale solar farms, Werner said. Including panels in new homes will accelerate that trend and lower the cost of solar energy.
“In the U.S., the big driver for solar demand going forward is going to be residential,” Werner said.
Panels and other hardware components make up less than half the budget of the average U.S. rooftop solar project, and incorporating them into new homes from the start, including design, construction and connecting them to buildings’ wiring, will reduce costs, he said.
“We have a huge opportunity to get another 25 percent out of install costs if we do what the Germans did,” he said.
It costs about 62 cents a watt to build residential solar systems in Germany, according to a September report from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Longer installation time and more permitting requirements are part of the reason the U.S. figure, $3.32 a watt, is more than five times greater.
Germany has about 32 gigawatts of installed solar capacity, more than any other country. First Solar Inc. (FSLR) is the largest U.S. solar manufacturer.
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