Solar roofs get trendy in California
July 15, 1999
COMPTON, California (CNN) -- When Evelyn Ramsey comes home from work, she walks into a house that's also been hard at work -- generating electricity.
"When I get my utility bill, it will be a small fee and I'll be a happy person," she says with a laugh.
The secret to her home's efficiency lies in its roof, where photovoltaic cells are incorporated into strong, weather-resistant roof tiles.
Wired together, they channel current to inverter boxes in the garage and out to the home's electric meter.
The result is a curious phenomenon at her meter: the counter spins backward.
"You spin your meter backward when you're making energy while you're at work," explains Steve Coonen of Atlantis Energy Systems, which manufactures the roof. "When you come home and turn your appliances on, the meter runs forward, taking off the credits you built up all day long."
The technology is a marriage of modern roofing materials and highly efficient solar cells.
A single photovoltaic cell can generate two watts, enough to power a small flashlight.
Put 250 of the them on a sun-exposed roof all day, and they can generate enough power to cut utility bills by up to one-half for an average-sized home.
At $15,000 per installation, the system can pay for itself in 10 to 15 years.
And in California, the state will subsidize one-third of the cost, because the tiles produce non-polluting energy.
In Ramsey's subdivision, 13 new homes with solar tiles easily out-sold those without them.
And under President Clinton's Solar Roofs Initiative, it's hoped 1 million homes can be equipped with the clean-energy tiles by the year 2010.
Correspondent Jim Hill contributed to this report.
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