The excitement over Tesla Energy’s Powerwall and Powerblock is only the latest indication that solar is rapidly becoming the new normal for construction. Growing numbers of construction companies nationwide are including batteries and other equipment alongside the conventional utility panel in many new buildings. It’s more and more common for residential and commercial buildings to incorporate solar panels into the structure’s design from the outset instead of simply making space to include them on the roof later. Designers are also including elements such as solar glass and solar tiles into the exterior of the structures, making solar power less visually intrusive and more architecturally appealing.
As solar proliferates the landscape, the costs of installing solar have dropped sharply. Between 2013 and 2014, solar usage in the U.S. increased 34%. 2014 saw about 200,000 solar panel installations, bringing the national total of solar powered homes and businesses to 650,000, and the total solar capacity to 20,000 megawatts nationwide. This astronomical demand for solar has caught the attention of the construction industry, which is stepping up to meet it. Residential, commercial, and institutional projects of all sizes are being built with solar power in mind:
Single-family homes, condos, and multifamily buildings are making room for solar. While rooftop solar panels are a major feature of many residential buildings, solar shingles have recently grown in popularity. Contractors have begun orienting structures along the East/West Axis so that rooftops will gain maximum sun exposure. Homeowners are saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy costs as a result in the shift to residential solar.
Office buildings always have high energy needs, which makes the addition of solar panels to lighten the utility load a no-brainer. Office rooftop panels are ideal for commercial structures, which often have expansive, flat-grade roofs that are openly exposed to direct sunlight. Commercial buildings often have a very high square footage of flat roof space to hold many more solar panels than residential homes can.
As most primary and secondary schools are state-funded, governments are pursuing solar initiatives for school districts all over the nation. Rooftop solar panels on the school buildings, and solar panel plains on the vacant space next to sports fields are becoming more and more common. Medical facilities, which are typically very energy hungry, are also eager to include rooftop solar panels. Everything from private clinics to major hospital centers have embraced solar as a way to lower their typically extremely high energy costs.