SMUD and Lennar Ink Large Solar Homes Project

March 19, 2007 by Jeff Shepard

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) and residential developer Lennar Homes have signed an agreement that represents what they claim is the largest solar new homes partnership in the United States, and significantly eclipses any utility’s previous solar and high efficiency agreements with homebuilders. The agreement will bring more than 1,200 super-efficient solar homes to the area (in California). It is claimed that, in addition to saving future owners of these homes money on their energy bills, the agreement will also deliver many economic and environmental benefits to the community.

Solar photovoltaic (PV) systems will be built into 1,254 new homes in 11 communities in the SMUD service territory. The first 506 homes will be constructed in the new Anatolia subdivision of Rancho Cordova and 79 new homes will be built in the Village Greens community of Natomas. Groundbreaking is planned for March. The first 174 homes will be built this year; another 761 will be built in 2008; 476 in 2009; and 100 in 2010.

Residents may save as much as 60% annually on their electric bills by using the sun’s power to generate electricity. An added feature allows homeowners to monitor their PV electricity production and their energy use in real time over the Internet. In addition to the built-in solar panels, the homes also boast several energy efficiency measures to help customers reduce their bills year-round. The energy efficiency measures include efficient HVAC systems, radiant barriers in attics, added insulation, duct sealing and energy-efficient compact fluorescent lighting.

The community benefits as well. Less electricity will be needed to serve the homes, especially at peak demand times, like hot summer days, when power is most expensive. The 1,200 homes are expected to shave nearly two megawatts off the peak. The homes also have a smaller "carbon footprint" than conventional new homes. Carbon footprint is the amount of greenhouse gas emissions produced. Cumulatively, the 1,254 Solar Smart homes could reduce carbon emissions that are equivalent to taking 620 cars off the road or planting 980 acres of trees.

As a partner, SMUD will provide incentives to buy down the cost of the PV systems and provide rebates for energy efficiency upgrades. These rebates and incentives, along with attractive tax credits, will make solar electric systems a more affordable option for more homebuyers. The agreement could also be expanded to include additional homes in future communities, making solar homes available to even more customers in the SMUD service area, which includes all of Sacramento County and a small portion of Placer County.