Danville Express

- March 16, 2007

Solely solar

Danville development features 77 sun-powered homes

by Natalie O'Neill

There's a big ball of burning gas in the sky - why not use it as energy?

As solar power becomes cheaper and more accessible, many forward-thinking homebuilders in the Bay Area are asking themselves the same question. More and more companies are considering alternative energy use, and Danville is at the forefront of the revolution in solar powered homes.

Lennar homebuilders, the largest developer of residential property in the East Bay, just opened up its 77-home community of solar powered homes for sale in Danville in late February.

"From an environmental perspective, we are making solar powered homes more appealing," said Mike Pennisi, Lennar director of customer care.

With the help of Senate Bill 1, signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2006, the company was able to expand its investments in solar homes. The bill offers home builders and homeowners incentives to install solar energy, as part of the effort to advocate green energy alternatives throughout the state.

"This is the governor's cup of tea," Lennar spokeswoman Pam Hamilton said.

At the Milano community in Danville, energy from the sun is absorbed through SunTiles solar panels, a product that is installed on the roof and blends in easily with the roof paneling. This helps residents save on their utility bills without being flashy or obvious about the fact they are using solar power.

"These homeowners will actually produce renewable power to help supply their own needs while protecting the environment," said Helen Burt, PG&E senior vice president.

In addition, there are other ways solar power is good for your bank account, said Joe Henri of Lennar. Homes equipped with solar energy systems can also generate savings on annual utility bills, with a one-time $2,000 federal tax credit.

"Through the California Solar Initiative, we can provide almost $950 million in rebates over the next 10 years to help customers buy their own solar systems," Henri said.

At the recent opening at the Milano property, located near Diablo Vista Middle School, the company announced its plans to go solely solar.

"From this point forward, every home Lennar builds will be powered with solar energy," Hamilton said.

Many of the 3,600-4,200-square-foot homes also feature large windows for natural lighting and interactive home heating, entertainment, and sprinkling systems.

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