Outfitted with slate lookalike photovoltaic collectors, these homes have made big news in Sacramento, Calif., where power prices have gone through the roof. By BUILDER Magazine Staff

Bob Walter, president of Morrison Homes' Sacramento division, says that the integral appearance of Atlantis Energy's SunSlate system on Morrison's homes has made the feature an easy sell.

"We've sold a handful of the homes already," he says, "and the media coverage has been just awesome. The great thing is that the product is not ugly. It's not the same old solar technology. The scale and dimension match the roof."

Walter worked with the city of Sacramento, SMUD, and Steve Coonen at Atlantis Energy to make the PV system work.

"Morrison found that when given the choice, something like 90 percent of customers accepted the PV option. We've finally gotten over the hump with builders. And we've got the largest roofing contractors in the West acting as our distributors," says Coonen.

Coonen adds that Sacramento's SMUD is clearly leading the PV renaissance. "They've done more PV than all other public utilities in the country combined," he says.

The solar inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC). The meter spins backwards when solar power production exceeds the home's demand, and the power is sold back to SMUD. Morrison took two years to plan the addition of the SunSlates. The first PV homes became available in the Bel Lago at Westlake community in mid-July. They include one- and two-story home designs from 1,958 to 3,262 square feet with four and five bedrooms, plus bonus room and two or three baths.

Product: Energy Advantage; Current test market: 3 subdivisions; Location: Sacramento, Calif. area; Total standard PV units: 20 (minimum); Home prices: $220,000 and up; PV system output: 2.1kW (200 square feet); Cost to homeowner: Under $11,000; PV panel manufacturer: Atlantis Energy Systems