Rice University architecture students design affordable dwelling that will operate as part of a synchronized solar and battery plant


PearlX announced a partnership with the Rice University’s architecture department to complete the installation of a sustainable accessory dwelling unit modeled after the traditional Texan ‘Dogtrot’ home. This is the first of the dwellings being built under ‘Project TexFlex’. PearlX awarded an EPC contract to Austin-based Native Solar to design and construct Project TexFlex.

The 640 square foot unit, which will be owned by the Houston affordable housing non-profit Avenue CDC, will source its power from rooftop solar PV modules, donated by Freedom Solar, and a contiguous SolarEdge Energy Hub inverter, and Energy Bank battery donated by PearlX.

The style of the dwelling is that of a traditional Texan Dogtrot home, which is a single-floor home made up of two units on either side of an open breezeway in the middle. The advantage from a sustainability point of view is that one side houses the bedrooms and the other side the cooking facilities, so—in theory—each side would be powered only when in use.

PearlX will be asset managing the project with its proprietary management software, PearlX Flex, and will be integrating the installation with a virtual power plant currently being developed at the multifamily community 2410 Waugh in Montrose, Houston. This will allow the physically detached installations to operate as one synchronized virtual power plant (VPP), delivering excess generated power to the grid. Using the SolarEdge Energy Hub inverter and Energy Bank battery, energy storage will be both a grid asset and community storage asset

“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,” said Peter Mathews, SolarEdge General Manager, North America.

Founded in 2019, PearlX is a veteran-led company whose mission is to deliver the benefits of distributed generation to the multifamily sector.  PearlX will purchase hardware and cloud-based grid services technology from SolarEdge, while SolarEdge will provide design and engineering support. PearlX uses an underwriting method that allows tenant subscribers to access the rewards of solar generation and battery storage without being required to demonstrate an industry-defined adequate credit score.

This is the first net-positive energy project for the Rice University students of architecture. The energy performance data will be made available to Professor Dan Cohan’s class “Energy and the Environment” for students to learn from operating, smart distributed generation projects.

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