Bringing Energy Equality to Renters in Texas with Virtual Power Plants
Historically, choosing solar energy as a way to cut down on electric bills and add value to homes has only been a viable option for people with good credit and the ability to purchase a home. With a new program, however, the opportunity to power one’s place of residence with solar is being extended to renters and people with lower credit scores through virtual power plants, community solar and innovative storage.
The apartments at 2410 Waugh Street in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood will become the first installation of “Project TexFlex,” a program created by flexible energy provider PearlX Infrastructure and global leader in smart energy technology, SolarEdge Technologies. Together, these two companies have collaborated to create a novel residential clean energy solution for renters in Texas. NATiVE Solar is also a part of this innovative project, and has been granted an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract. These companies are working together to install community solar and battery storage in apartment complexes to create “Virtual Power Plants” (VPPs), also known as resilience hubs, which are meant to help stabilize the Texas grid. By installing these systems on the roofs of apartment buildings, Project TexFlex is empowering renters who would otherwise be shut out of the residential solar market.
How it Works
Project TexFlex aims to increase energy resilience in Texas by reducing strain on the grid. “A lack of localized renewable energy sources makes ERCOT vulnerable to failure and power outages such as the ones that occurred in the winter storm in February 2021. The battery storage in VPPs facilitate the delivery of energy back into the grid during a blackout which helps to both support and stabilize the grid. By increasing the number of VPPs within a community, power becomes more reliable for everyone. VPPs have the ability to significantly reduce grid strain during energy shortages, and as more VPPs are installed, the likelihood of mass power outages will continue to decrease” says Alex Rozenfeld, Founder and Managing Director of Climate Impact Capital.
Bringing Clean Energy Solutions to Renters
The ability to bridge the gap between renters and clean energy solutions is extremely important due to the growing trend in families with children who are renting their homes instead of buying them. According to an article posted by CultureMap Houston, this demographic is on the rise in the thirty largest US metros, with Houston being no exception. Many of these tenants are also low to medium-income families, and should benefit from the more affordable, flexible, and resilient energy that solar provides. PearlX’s mission is to use Project TexFlex to help reduce energy poverty and expand clean energy access.
Working Towards Energy Equality
In striving for energy equality, PearlX will not require tenants to present an industry-defined adequate credit score, but rather simply show proof that they have paid their most recent electricity bills on time. This allows tenants who live within TexFlex properties to access the benefits of solar even with inadequate credit scores. As stated by Michael Huerta, CEO of PearlX, “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…Payment for electricity we believe is the highest form of credit. When you look at the data, electric bills are paid before rent, cell phone bills, even car payments.” With PearlX underwriting the TexFlex project, tenants of all credit scores, provided that they have paid their last electric bill, will be able to access the benefits that solar energy provides to both them and their communities.
Texas and Beyond
While the Montrose apartment community is a smaller scale project with only fourteen individual apartments, PearlX has already signed an agreement with the complex’s developers to continue to scale up the project and offer it at other multi-family real estate properties across Texas. After developing further in Texas, similar projects will continue in California and several other US states later this year.
With the launch of this new clean energy solution, PearlX, SolarEdge, and NATiVE Solar are creating a widely replicable, decentralized model that will facilitate Texas’ energy transition, while offering safeguards against grid failures. At the same time, energy consumers across the state will benefit from more cost-effective and reliable power. This win-win solution is the first of its kind, and shows us how private entities can step in to provide energy solutions when public utilities are insufficient. By continuing to support projects such as TexFlex, we can make Texas more resilient and bring affordable clean energy solutions to those who would otherwise be locked out of participating in the solar market.