If there’s one thing we have plenty of in Arizona, it is sunshine. The sunshine draws people here, powering our tourism industry and real estate industries. But more and more, the sunshine is powering something else — the opportunity for energy independence.
This is certainly the time to be thinking about independence, and that means more than just hot dogs and flags (even though I love both). To me, independence means freedom, and freedom means choice — the choice to live where and how you want. As a local real estate developer for the past 30 years, I’ve seen first-hand that for Arizonans — and especially in our retirement communities — this increasingly means having access to efficient, clean and affordable housing options. More and more, solar power is playing an important role in providing those choices.
Our ample sunshine makes solar an obvious choice for our state. In fact, Arizona is now ranked fourth in the nation in the amount of installed solar power per capita, with nearly 17,000 solar panels on homes, businesses and military bases across the state.
For homeowners — especially those looking to save money — solar makes sense. Nationwide, solar prices have fallen 20 percent in the past year, making what was once a luxury item for a few a must have for many Arizonans looking to lower their electricity bills.
This is increasingly true in our state’s retirement communities. At our company’s active adult community CantaMia, located in Goodyear, every home built has included solar as standard. Along with other green building features, these solar panels make CantaMia’s homes 60 percent more energy efficient than an average new code-compliant home.
On a hot July day in the Valley, that means major savings on electricity.
Our commitment to solar power doesn’t just make environmental sense — it makes economic sense. After all, we’re a business, and while we want to help protect the planet, we’ve also got a bottom line to think about. We see solar panels as a major selling point for our homes — that’s a key reason we built 55 Energy Star-certified homes in the Phoenix area in 2011. These homes will save our customers a total of more than $75,000 on utility bills each year — or $1,363 per home. How’s that for “going green?”
The cost savings from efficient homes and solar power are especially important for those on fixed incomes. It may come as a surprise to some that a “retirement community” has made a commitment to solar, but we think Arizona and states around the country will be seeing more and more active adult residences moving to solar. It just makes economic sense.
So it’s no surprise that the solar industry is one of the fastest growing sectors of the Arizona economy and a powerful jobs engine for our state.
There are nearly 1,000 solar offices here that employ approximately 5,000 Arizonans, according to the Solar Foundation, and the greater Phoenix area has become a major hub for global solar industry leaders like Suntech and First Solar.
We like the idea of being able to choose our energy source. We like the freedom that comes with having money in the bank, thanks to lower electricity bills. We like the idea of energy independence powered by our sunshine. To put it simply, we like solar power, and we’d like to see more of it.
— Carl Mulac is executive vice president of AV Homes, Inc. and is serving his second term as chairman of the board of the Home Builders Association of Central Arizona.