There were three homes on Bend's south side right next to Highway 97 that had water heaters powered by solar panels. That's not as good as a completely solar-powered home, but it was good to see them on the low end of the price spectrum, from $162,000 to $189,500.
Of the nine homes in pricier NorthWest Crossing, only one had solar power. But, it was a complete solar home, meaning that it's a "Zero Energy Home." When the sun is shining, it produces energy for the grid and results in a credit on your power bill. When the sun isn't shining, you use energy from the grid and pay accordingly.
Since Central Oregon touts its 300 days of sunshine each year, it's safe to say this home won't cost anything to heat or cool.
It was built by SolAire Homebuilders with the asking price of $399,900, which is down from about $600,000 a new home in NorthWest Crossing would've fetched in 2006.
I didn't see all the homes on the tour, but did happen to be cycling through Caldera Springs, an upscale area attached to Sunriver. Of the four homes there, none had solar power. Three of the four homes on the tour there were already sold. The low end was $659,900.
I missed the homes in Tetherow, a high-end golf course subdivision on the southwest edge of Bend. Homes there were priced in the $700,000 to $900,000 range. None had solar power.
In 2011, it is shameful that all new homes, particularly the most expensive ones, in Central Oregon are not powered by solar energy.
Local governments in this region don't require solar power even though this place is marketed as the land of abundant sunshine.
If the booster set wants to attract more businesses to this area, it should put its money where its mouth is.
All cities in Central Oregon should require all new homes valued at more than $300,000 to be completely powered by solar energy. Those under $300,000 should, at the bare minimum, have water heaters powered by solar panels.
If governments in areas of the country with plenty of sunshine adopted solar mandates, a whole new demand would develop. This demand would force creation of a more efficient grid system, which in turn would further demand for a way to store all this power generated here. Afterall, the experts tells us, demand is what's holding the economy back.
As electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids become more popular, a solar energy home would not only power the household, but also the electric vehicles used by that household.
The benefits are obvious including less reliance on any oil, foreign or domestic. Yes, it means we wouldn't be paying the Middle East terrorists to terrorize us.
But, it's almost 10 years after 9/11 and we still haven't gotten the memo.
What will it take? A mushroom cloud over Manhattan?