Multifamily and rental applications are a tough market for solar +storage, but announced last week at Intersolar, PearlX Infrastructure LLC is collaborating with SolarEdge on a new solution that will benefit lower income renters while providing critical grid services. The pilot virtual power plant program is debuting at the 2410 Waugh Apartments in the Montrose neighborhood of Houston in the first quarter of 2022 through an agreement with CenterPoint Energy.
Dubbed “Project TexFlex”, the community solar & storage VPP is designed to empower tenants. PearlX says each VPP provides load-serving and resiliency benefits to consumers, royalty and income streams for its multi-family real estate partners, and flexibility and capacity services to the Texas energy market – allowing utilities to leverage and control a previously untapped pool of available distributed energy resources to support grid stabilization.
Based on a signed agreement with Moonlight Interests, LLC, developer of 2410 Waugh Apartments, PearlX will scale Project TexFlex throughout the multi-family real estate market in Texas. As owner and operator of the project, PearlX will purchase hardware and grid services technology from SolarEdge, while SolarEdge will also provide design and engineering support.
PearlX will be deploying SolarEdge’s energy hub inverter and new energy bank battery as both a grid asset and community storage asset. SolarEdge’s advanced software for grid services also enables behind-the-meter VPPs to receive and respond to onsite and grid level signals.
PearlX and SolarEdge believe this will be a widely replicable, decentralized solar + storage model that offers safeguards against grid failures. PearlX awarded an EPC contract to Austin based Native Solar to design and construct Project TexFlex. Following Texas, the project will continue in California and several other US states later in the year.
Low and moderate income benefits. Key to the deal is PearlX’s non-credit-based underwriting approach, which helps lower and middle-income tenants gain access to benefits provided by the solar and storage without the obligation to present an industry-defined adequate credit score.
“Mainstream solar and especially storage has traditionally been an amenity for the wealthy. If you don’t have good credit, you don’t have access,” said Michael Huerta, CEO of PearlX. “Credit is the ability to repay. Electricity is the ability to live. Payment for electricity we believe is the highest form of credit.” Huerta added, “When you look at the data, electric bills are paid before rent, cell phone bills, even car payments.”
VPPs taps into a cloud-based, real-time aggregative control, management and reporting of a pool of distributed energy resources. This is particularly notable in the wake of the Texas “Big Freeze” of February 2021, which placed grids under huge strain and caused mass power outages. Utilizing onsite solar, the program will facilitate the delivery of energy back to the grid in near real-time. Utilities are provided with access to stored power when grid stabilization is needed or during energy shortages.
Participating tenants will also gain onsite grid resiliency to help power their home during blackouts, and can simultaneously further reduce energy costs by participating in demand/response events or time-of-use arbitrage programs, where excess solar is diverted to help support the grid.
“Advances in solar & storage technologies are serving as the key enablers that helping to drive the new democratic and distributed energy economy in North America.” said Peter Mathews, SolarEdge General Manager, North America. “Developments in software are providing the grid with much needed control to optimize the use of solar for different communities. This is making solar power more available and flexible, so that even renters can benefit from renewable energy.”
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