Hunters Point features small homes that run on solar power and made out of carbon fiber materials. Is this the future of housing? (Photo from Pearl Homes)


A new neighborhood in a fishing village south of Tampa, Florida called Cortez is aiming to be the most energy efficient neighborhood in the community. A new development called Hunters Point will feature small homes that will run on solar power to reach a “net zero” energy footprint with the help of Google Home to make sure the power is used efficiently.


According to Blake Richetta, senior vice president and head of US operations at Sonnen, who is making the batteries that will store solar power for the homes, the new development is going to be a “grid-interactive, grid-optimized virtual power plant.” The company created software that will work with Google Home devices and interact with its system, which sends more power into batteries or the grid at different times.


For instance, during the day Google’s Nest thermostat will begin pre-cooling houses meaning solar power from the roof can be used directly. During peak evening times, the system will gradually increase the temperature. By doing this, there will be a lower demand on the grid at critical times. The system will also charge electric cars during low energy demand periods and even store extra power from the grid when energy is being overproduced and is cheapest.


The new homes will not only be energy efficient, they’ll be hurricane proof as well. Designed with help from Florida Solar Energy Center, the homes will be built with materials containing carbon fiber, which helps them meet the standard for a Category 5 storm; by law, builders only have to meet a Category 3 storm. If a storm is bad enough to take out an electric grid, the power will be intact thanks to the solar panels and batteries.


Construction starts in late 2019, while a second development of 720 rental homes by Pearl Homes using the same system starting shortly afterward. When it’s complete, it will be the first net-zero rental community of its size. It’ll also make net-zero homes and apartments accessible to those who may not have been able to afford them in the past. The going rate for a two-bedroom apartment is between $1,200 and $1,400.


“Our mission is everybody should be able to afford a sustainable home,” says Marshall Gobuty, president of Pearl Homes. “These sustainable homes that are solar-powered with our Sonnen system should not just be for the rich.”


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