Imagine: you decide that you want to power your new house completely with solar energy. You go to Lowe’s and buy some solar panels, install them, and voila, solar is on tap. It sounds simple enough, but up until this week it was a pipe dream. Now Akeena Solar has made DIY solar a reality by selling all-in-one panels at 21 Lowe’s stores in California.
Akeena, which hopes to gain some much-needed revenue from the Lowe’s venture, says that its panels can be installed by homeowners. For $893 ($625 after federal tax credits), shoppers get a 175-watt panel that provides enough energy to power a 42-inch flat screen TV. Each panel includes an inverter that allows it to plug into regular electrical outlets.
So is this the beginning of the plug-and-play solar revolution? Sort of. Akeena’s Andalay solar panels aren’t cheap enough to be worth it to many consumers–the company says California residents paying 44 cents per kilowatt would save $132 a year on each panel, but most Californians pay much less for their power. That means it would take even longer to generate savings from the panels. At the same time, organizations like 1 Block Off the Grid make group solar purchases–and professional installations–cheaper for homeowners. But once one company starts selling off-the-shelf panels, how long can it be until other revenue-seeking solar companies follow? Once solar costs drop, don’t be surprised if Home Depot has a solar aisle.