Solar technology goes mainstream

Akeena Solar shares jump on news that its panels will appear on shelves at home-improvement stores.

By Kim Peterson Dec 11, 2009 1:41PM
Save on home insurance © Creatas / AGE FotostockShares of Akeena Solar (AKNS) soared Thursday on news that Lowe's is selling the company's solar panels in its California stores. But Friday, shares had dropped nearly 10% to $1.40.

Still, there's some promising potential for solar stocks here as solar panels head into DIY territory. Lowe's (LOW) plans to stock them across the country next year, according to the Associated Press. The panels have never had such mainstream availability before.

"Solar power is now accessible to anyone with a ladder, a power drill, and the gumption to climb up on a roof and install the panels themselves," writes the AP.

Lowe's says that interest in solar is growing from buyers who want more energy-efficient homes. The panels will sell for about $900 apiece, and the AP reports that a typical solar system usually has about 20 panels.

Home Depot offered more sophisticated solar panels this year, but that was a test effort mainly geared toward professional contractors.

By making the panels more accessible to the average homeowner, Lowe's is betting that it will find new business from do-it-yourselfers who want to install solar on their own.

So the big question is whether homeowners will be able to pull of solar installation on their own -- particularly because doing so often involves paperwork, HOA approval and the like.

"It's really not a big deal," the CEO of Akeena tells the AP. "The most dangerous thing is learning about ladder safety."

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