Timely Solar Training for Design Professionals Coming Soon

by Maria Ellingson, BCAP Program Director

NOTE: This blog post is part of the SunShot Initiative’s series on solar and real estate. Read all the posts here.

America’s demand for solar energy is spreading – and fast. In just the last eight years, solar electricity generation has increased 30 fold and solar jobs are growing 12 times faster than the rest of the economy. Recent federal policies are making solar even more favorable: just this month President Obama announced the Clean Energy Saving For All initiative to increase access to solar energy and promote energy efficiency across the United States – particularly in low and moderate income communities. As President Obama said: “Solar panels are no longer for wealthy folks who live where the sun shines every day. They’re already a reality for Americans and communities all across the country.”

As the cost of photovoltaic (PV) solar energy drops to a level on par with traditional energy costs and new policies help the burgeoning solar industry, the continued growth of solar energy is certain. With the increased number of solar panels on properties, buyers are asking real estate professionals tough new questions such as:

  • “Do solar panels work?”
  • “How much energy do they save on monthly bills?”
  • “Are they safe?”
  • “Will they add to my resale value?”

But a more important question may be, “Is the number and speed of solar panels going up outpacing the number of real estate professionals that understand the added value of PV?”

As the popularity of solar soars, real estate professionals, appraisers, architects and engineers are seeking information in order to answer their clients’ questions.

With funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) SunShot Initiative, solar training will be available to the various stakeholder groups that assist buyers, real estate professionals, appraisers, code officials, architects and engineers.

The Building Codes Assistance Project (BCAP) and the Center for Sustainable Energy (CSE) will be educating architects and engineers on how to incorporate solar energy into the design and construction of new buildings. Rather than making solar installation an entirely separate transaction for building owners many years down the road (after the building is completed), building designers can incorporate a PV installation on the front end – before construction – greatly helping buyers.

Building design professionals are ideally suited to make solar energy part of the dialogue during the design phase of new buildings. Incorporating solar directly into building designs reduces the cost, including the expense of permitting, installation and labor, and will support the continued growth of solar energy technology. Having more solar energy seamlessly integrated into building design can also increase consumer satisfaction and confidence in solar as a safe and reliable technology.

Currently, BCAP and CSE are developing training and resources for architects and engineers which will be taught in 22 metropolitan areas across the nation, as well as via a national webinar. We will also be training a cadre of trainers to deliver solar education to this distinct audience. Designers interested in bringing the training to their area are welcome to send us a request at mellingson@bcapcodes.org.

BCAP also recently worked with the Appraisal Institute and the National Association of Realtors to educate their members about the appraised value of energy efficiency and green building features such as solar, and the importance of using specially-trained appraisers for high-performing buildings. The appraisal guidance letter walks builders and appraiser through the process of getting an accurate appraisal for homes built to modern day energy codes. While the National Association for Realtors offers similar assistance for REALTORS®.

About the SunShot Initiative

The U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative is a collaborative national effort that aggressively drives innovation to make solar energy fully cost competitive with traditional energy sources before the end of the decade. Through SunShot, the Energy Department supports efforts by private companies, universities, and national laboratories to drive down the cost of solar electricity to $0.06 per kilowatt-hour. Learn more at energy.gov/sunshot.