For the first time, homeowners can purchase solar panels off the shelves of a major retailer.
Akeena Solar Inc.’s (Nasdaq:AKNS) Andalay AC panels are now available at 21 Lowe’s (NYSE: LOW) home-improvement stores in California.
Akeena says the panels are designed for Do-It-Yourself (DIY)
installation, though homeowners will also be responsible for acquiring
permits from utilities and handling paperwork for state and federal
refunds–services generally handled by commercial installers.
Lowe’s reportedly will provide information to assist homeowners in
handling the paperwork, as well as software to monitor performance of
the panels online.
The Andalay AC panels have
integrated racking, wiring and grounding, which Akeena solar says reduces the overall parts
count by 80%. Andalay panels also have built-in inverters that produce household AC
power, so they can be plugged directly into a home’s circut breaker.
Lowe’s is creating an "Energy Center" in each of these stores, which in addition to providing solar information, will also offer advice on energy efficieny. A touch-screen information kiosk is designed to help customers evaluate their solar and wind
potential, and feature products that
measure energy use and reduce energy consumption. Lowe’s said the Energy Center will be
in additional U.S. and Canadian stores in 2010.
If Lowe’s decides to carry the panels nationwide, the easy
availability could open up additional business opportunities for
exelectricians and HVAC
contractors who could install the systems without specialized training.
The Associated Press reported that individual panels will retail for $893 a piece and provide about 175 watts of electricity.
A typical homes system would include about 20 panels, but the Andalay panels have a modular design that is meant to allow homeowners to start small and add on.
"The PC revolution in the computer industry occurred when new technology made PCs easy to use and affordable," said Barry Cinnamon, CEO of Akeena Solar. "Likewise, with panels becoming plug-and-play appliances, the solar revolution has started. The availability of solar panels in Lowe’s stores makes it easy for homeowners to go solar and is a big step toward getting solar on every sunny rooftop."