The Future of Housing Part III

June 30, 2021 | By: Ryan Shanahan

Solar installation
The future of housing is efficient, electric, and renewable. Part three of a three part series.

This is the third and final installment of a three part series on the future of new housing that will focus on why and how the future of housing will utilize renewable energy. In the last two blogs I covered why and how the future of housing will be efficient and electric which could be summarized by saying:

  1. we need to reduce our energy demands and electrify housing to address climate change,
  2. how efficiency coupled with electrification provides the most cost effective strategy,
  3. how these changes provide additional benefits to homeowners that include comfort, durability, resiliency, and safety.
In this final installment we’ll explore why and how providing renewable energy to our housing is the last step towards addressing climate change and how nicely it dovetails with the expansion of smart technology, demand response capability for electric utilities, and the electrification of our transportation.

For the purposes of this article I’ll mostly be talking about the latest features, advantages, and benefits of residential solar photovoltaic (PV) for single family homes. It’s important to recognize that for homes that don’t have sufficient solar access due to shade caused from trees, neighboring buildings and more that alternative renewable energy options do exist. Even something as simple as purchasing “green power” from a local utility is a step in the correct direction. rooftop solar panels

While I’m a firm believer that the best time to invest in renewable energy systems was yesterday the next best option is now! Today’s solar PV systems are a lot more efficient at converting the sun’s radiant energy into usable electricity while the cost of the systems continues to decline. This combination has turned the cost per watt of energy produced math on its head since the 1970’s. Some of this is due to the fact that the older systems of yesterday suffered from the same issue as a string of old Christmas lights; if one bulb went out so did the rest of the line (if one solar panel was shaded the rest of the panels down the line could not produce energy). With the advent of micro inverters and power optimizers this is no longer an issue. The 25 year warranties most solar PV systems offer provide the reassurance that most well oriented systems will pay for themselves within less than half of the warranty range (Oregon). This math is always highly subjective to local energy costs, jurisdictional regulations around net metering, and is further complicated by time of use utility charges. 

Many lean on home batteries to help with variable time of use rates in jurisdictions that are less favorable to solar PV. While this can be a good investment for some, I’m excited about a future where folks can tap into the much larger batteries they’ve already paid for in their electric vehicles. Both battery options would allow homeowners to theoretically use their solar PV system to power their home and autos during a power outage as well. 

Lastly, there’s encouraging new research that indicates that utilities, communities, and individuals all gain from the resilience a diverse profile of smaller individual systems creates versus the old thinking that utility scale solar PV was the only cost effective choice. This will hopefully encourage local, state, and national governments to invest in renewable energy systems to a greater extent than ever before. With efficient, electric, renewably powered homes we’ll be on a pathway towards a sustainable future.

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LinkedIn: Ryan Shanahan

Read: The Future of Housing Part I
Read: The Future of Housing Part 2