Monday, December 3, 2007

American housing crash and solar...

My wife is in mortgages (still employed, thank goodness). I've had plenty of time to delve into what's going on in housing over the last few years, and saw the current crisis coming a mile away (I didn't know the effects of the outcome, but I sure as heck saw that the prices weren't sustainable).

So, in envisioning the future of energy in America, I've come to the following conclusions.

Adding Solar Panels to existing and new homes adds value to the home, plain and simple. Having a home that generates its own power has benefits ranging from plain financial (payoff over time from metering), to home security and confidence (living in the county, our power has gone down for multi-day periods several times each of the last couple winters). There is also a "fad" effect going on in places where Solar is becoming the thing to do, or a status symbol.

The infrastructure to support solar installation of all types is developing, and great efficiencies will be found in this area as workforces and contractors are trained in the specific specific tools and techniques (these efficiencies are separate from efficiencies gained at, say, LDK, in the production of the panels themselves).

There is money to be made in Solar. As housing prices are collapsing, opportunities will exist for developers to buy common property cheap, and convert it to something special that is in special demand (green).

The financials need to get on board, and they will. Akeena Solar has already teamed up with a bank to provide financing for their solar installation customers.

As it is, I can go to the bank and get a loan on a car, boat, or home. Well, in lending for these things, the bank is counting on getting their money back plus interest. Well, a car, boat, or home, don't necessarily pay themselves off in the end, but energy sources do. There is a measure of safety in investing in Energy, though the system is not yet in place to realize it.

Consider the appraisal of a home. One, the appraiser needs comparisons. At this time, the rarity of solar installations make comparisons difficult or impossible. California may be different from where I live, but where I live, appraisers don't give added value to a property for Solar Panels. You could put a deck on the house and add thousands of dollars in value, but if you put in panels, you gain nothing.

The lending system simply hasn't yet crunched the numbers. They haven't written the rules that will allow underwriters to sign off on a loan that assigns value to Residential Solar Energy Generation while defending the long-term financial interest of the lender. They will do so, because it's in their best interest to provide services to the growing number of potential green-conscious borrowers.

Prices will come down. We see bashers talking about an impending polysilicon glut, but they never mention the other side of the coin, which is that with lower prices, demand increases. In fact, some of the same people that say there will be a glut, also say that prices will never come down to the point at which people would buy the products.

So, anyway... just some thoughts...

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