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Solar power for the peopleCNET News.com's Kara Tsuboi and Michael Kanellos look at innovative ways that companies are looking to roll out solar-energy technology options on a broader scale for less than that $30,000 price tag.
^M00:00:00 [ Music ] >> Hey there. I'm Kara Tsuboi, CNET News.com. I'm joined by News.com's Michael Kanellos, editor at large, who also happens to cover the Green Beat. Thanks for joining us Michael. >> [Inaudible]. >> And today we're talking about the high cost of solar panels and how companies are now realizing they need to make it more accessible to their customers. Is that right? >> Yeah. It's kind of a big issue. Putting solar on your house is about $30,000.00, you know, 20,000 after the rebate. And most people don't have that upfront. >> No way. >> So what they're trying to do is cut out the cost of, you know, installing, financing, and things like that. >> And they're doing this by creating new software programs to help finance the solar panels, essentially. >> Yeah. A lot of different stuff. There's a company coming out. They're gonna work with Connergy out of Germany. And basically, you go to their site and they'll sit there and say, well do you want to lease the panels? Or do you want to do something, like, buy the power from us. We'll own the panels on your roof for -- in perpetuity, and you just buy power from us at a lower rate than you get from Pgny [assumed spelling] or Southern California Edison, something like that. >> I mean, obviously, this is a method that's been used in other industries. I mean it's not necessarily reinventing the whole model, but it's now applying it to [inaudible] and the green industry. >> To certain degree. One thing that's weird about the solar industry is half the expenses are for the installation and things like that. So basically, people put billions and billions of dollars into making solar cells more efficient. >> Mm-hmm. >> But very little to date on actually, you know, getting those things up on your roof. So there's the financing project. And then there's some people doing applications now, like a company called Solar City. And what they do is they organize solar installations. They get 50 neighbors together and do it all at once. And they save truck rolls. And that drops about 10% of the price. So not a bad deal. >> I guess, overall, the problem seems to be that -- I mean it's a great idea in concept, but it's just not being used enough by the mass market. I mean you have to find a way for the masses to adopt it. >> Exactly. Exactly. And a lot of these issues, people just haven't thought of because solar wasn't in demand in the '80s and the '90s, right? Now, all of a sudden everyone wants solar. But we've still got to come up with a way to make it cheaper. >> I think I was reading somewhere that one company is proposing that someday they can get solar down to $1.00 a watt. How realistic is that? >> Nah -- it's kind of realistic. I mean right now it's -- solar's about double the price of regular electricity. But they're talking about things like instead of using silicon, using thin films where you just get this piece of aluminum, scattered with cadmium or scattered with different types of elements. Not as efficient as silicon, but it's a lot cheaper. In fact, like, they're talking about big stores like Wal-Mart, just covering that roof with a piece of foil with this kind of material on it, and all of the sudden that produces the lights. >> Have we seen this in practice yet? >> Those companies are just starting out. >> Okay. So there is a lot of solar tech that's still being developed and not just these software programs. >> Oh yeah. No. There's a lot going on, things like that. And it's gonna take years, though. It's a lot of research, a lot of development. But people want to focus on this soft side of it because no one's looked there before. >> Do you have solar on your roof? >> No. I don't. I live in a cloudbank. I can't, you know. >> So no plans to anytime soon? >> Yeah. No. In fact, I did test one out for my grandmother's house over in Berkeley. >> Mm-hmm. >> This company, Sungevity, it's very interesting. They can do a remote estimate for a solar install. And before, that took a guy, in a truck, to climb on your roof for a day, and give you an estimate. This, they get it done in about 20 minutes. They send you a bid in two hours. And you can put a deposit online. >> That's fantastic. >> Yes. >> And this is so much easier. Again, giving the tools into the people's hands to actually see if it's the right decision or not. >> Oh. The sales guys were relentless, too, you know. In fact, they called up twice and they go, look, that was just a demo for an article. They're like, okay. We'll leave you alone now. >> And of course the city of San Francisco has that solar map, where you can... >> Yeah. >> ...click and see, like, how much sun your house actually gets. >> Yeah. A lot of stuff like that. You're seeing activity mostly in California, Arizona, New Jersey, where the -- you know, where the rebates are pretty active. And also in Canada and Germany. So... >> Hmm. >> Worldwide, you'll see a lot of solar activity. >> Canada and Germany, not exactly the most sunny countries, necessarily, but... >> Canada's not bad. And the snow, you get a lot of reflection off that. So you get a lot of power. >> Good point. Well, thank you very much, Michael Kanellos. You've been watching CNET News.com. ^M00:03:35 [ Music ]