SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) has signed an agreement with homebuilder Woodside Homes to help fund the construction of 1,487 energy-efficient solar homes, the largest deal to date between a utility and a homebuilder in the United States.

The funding, provided through SMUD’s SolarSmart program, will help reduce the added cost of the high-efficiency features and the solar roof tiles, which together can reduce the homes’ annual electric bills by as much as 60 percent, says the utility. The homes will be located near Rancho Cordova, which is about 10 miles east of Sacramento, Calif. Construction will begin this year, and the subdivisions are expected to be completed by 2012. According to SMUD, the utility is already funding 1,383 SolarSmart homes to be built by Lennar and Tim Lewis Communities.

Meanwhile, another California homebuilder is launching two new home communities in San Diego, featuring solar homes that are also Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certified. Pine Brothers Fine Homes is teaming up with OCR Solar & Roofing to install BP Solar roof-integrated solar modules, which emulate the shape of flat concrete roof tiles. The homes will be 35 percent more efficient than California’s strict Title 24 Energy Standards. The new communities, called Orchard Heights and Falcon Place, opened their model homes to the public in mid-March.

Publication date:04/21/2008