McCaffrey Homes

Building A Future Home For Solar In The Valley

State figures show that Fresno-area homeowners are embracing solar energy. So, it shouldn't come as a great surprise to learn that one of the Valley's largest locally owned builders is making solar-energy systems a standard feature on all new houses.

McCaffrey Homes is adding the feature as part of a new whole-house green program called Earth Sense. A typical homeowner will shave 40 percent to 60 percent off energy bills with the 3 kilowatt system, said Dennis Cox, regional director of SolarCity, the installer that is teaming up with McCaffrey.

The system include a personalized Internet monitoring device that displays energy savings, production and environmental benefits, Cox said. McCaffrey principal Karen McCaffrey called the program "impactful today and long into the future" because it helps save homeowners money and protects the environment.

The program is another example of the expanding green movement in California - a movement that Gov. Jerry Brown said at a recent bill-signing event in Fowler is turning into a "revolution."

I don't know if I'll be breaking out my beret any time soon, but there is no denying a growing awareness in California, which set a landmark 33% renewable-energy mandate and where the $20 billion agriculture industry in the San Joaquin Valley is turning to solar to operate more dairy farms, packinghouses and other operations.

Homeowners in the the San Joaquin Valley, where triple-digit temperatures are common during the summer and power bills have been known to contain commas, are particularly interested in solar. Bakersfield, Fresno and Clovis are 4th, 5th and 7th respectively in the number of residential solar applications in California, just behind much larger cities of San Diego, San Jose and San Francisco, according to state statistics.

The solar-energy industry suffered a blow with the Solyandra bankruptcy, but it still appears to be moving forward in California. Walmart just announced that it will install solar on 60 more buildings- amounting to 75% of all company stores in the state. The world's largest retailer has slashed energy costs by more than $1 million through solar installations, and Google has announced it will offer financing for solar panels.

Dozens of solar projects are proposed for the San Joaquin Valley and desert regions of the state. There is even a proposal to make San Diego and Imperial counties a "mega region" for renewable energy.

Many home builders offer solar as an option, but McCaffrey is believed to be among the first in the Fresno area to make it standard. The first systems will go on houses in the Crownstone development at Barstow and DeWolf avenues in Clovis and Braden Court at Ashlan and Locan avenues, also in Clovis.

Rooftop solar and decentralized energy is considered by some to be among the most cost-effective and practical ways to boost renewable power, so any efforts in that way are good. Learn more in this report.

McCaffrey is essentially prepaying a solar lease, so the panels can be transferred to a new house if the property is sold, or the lease can be transferred to the new owner. The company also says the price of its new homes aren't increasing to accommodate the solar.

The homebuilding market is in the dumps, so builders are looking for ways to stand out. Offering solar as a standard feature without hiking the home price is a way to do that. It also is a small step in the solarization of the Valley.