Borrego Solar, Building Partnership Looks Ahead

Borrego Solar Systems, a solar photovoltaic (PV) design and installation firm recently installed a rooftop solar PV system for Build Inc. a commercial and residential building firm. It’s more than just a system installation for the two companies, however. It’s another example of the California solar industry’s increasing collaboration with the building industry as both groups anticipate upcoming changes to renewable energy in the state that could inexorably tie them together — and leave some behind.

The 7.4 kW rooftop solar PV project marks the beginning of Build Inc.’s research and experience with solar PV systems. Borrego says this type of alliance is important to their future business strategy. “In anticipation of changes to California renewable energy programs we are working with more and more green builders, architects, contractors, and developers, such as Build Inc,” said Mike Hall, Chief of Marketing & Sales, Borrego Solar Systems, Inc. “We are positioned to adapt quickly to policy changes that will surely affect the solar market. We are nimble, which is required in this marketplace.” The business cycle of the solar photovoltaic market – most of it based in California – is closely tied to statewide rebates and incentives to help bolster consumer demand. The industry, however, is also an adaptable one, quick on its toes to anticipate changes. Comprehensive solar legislation winding its way through the state legislature could completely reshuffle the solar industry in California with a stronger focus on the new home market. And there’s one reason why: the Million Solar Roofs Initiative. The Million Solar Roofs Initiative, or SB 1 as it’s known in state policy circles, is co-authored by Senators Kevin Murray (D-Los Angeles) and John Campbell (R-Orange County) and is strongly endorsed by Governor Schwarzenegger. The bill would provide a declining rebate structure for solar PV systems on California homes and businesses for at least 10 years. This long term stability is expected to boost solar developments to as much as 3000 MW within that span of time. And most of those rebates will go towards PV projects on new homes. There are currently just over 12,000 grid-tied solar PV systems on homes and businesses in California. While the majority of new solar PV installations in the state today are retro-fit projects, in order to ratchet that number up to a million, under SB 1, would be impossible without a major shift to new home construction, according to industry sources. The magnitude of the Million Solar Roofs Initiative could have some negative impacts for some parts of the solar industry. Despite all the new solar that could be installed by the solar plan, and all the attending benefits which that entails, there’s an undercurrent of fear in the solar installer community that they might be left out of much of the new construction. “One of the concerns of the contracting community, when you transition to new residential construction, you can end up circumventing some of the installers,” said Les Nelson, of California’s Solar Energy Industries Association (CalSIEA). “When you’re trying to drive prices down, building subdivisions of two, three, even four-hundred homes at a time, you start looking at the layers between the building community and the end use customer. The building industry is good at finding a deal.” That deal, says Nelson, could be direct arrangements between solar PV manufacturers and the building community who could buy equipment in bulk and use their own electricians to install the systems. Looking at it from that perspective, Borrego’s arrangement with Build Inc. could be more than just a smart collaboration, but also a preemptive move to ensure they remain an essential part of the solar business cycle in a future with a Million Solar Roofs Initiative. And of course, all the solar industry’s adaptability could be put to an altogether different test if the Million Solar Roofs Initiative doesn’t pass. The State Senate has already approved the legislation, but the real battle will be in the state’s large assembly where friction with the Governor may contribute to a reluctance on the Assembly’s part to give Schwarzenegger such a victory. For more specifics on the Borrego installation, see the following link below…
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