The Newest Apartment Amenity? Solar PV

Today I found myself on the roof of an apartment building, overlooking the downtown Houston cityscape.

As you can see, this is not just any apartment building (though it would appear so from street level).

The residents of this apartment complex get a unique amenity that you don’t typically see when apartment shopping. They also can rent solar PV and battery backup that is already installed as part of the building.

That means that when the power goes out, their power doesn’t – their apartments are powered by batteries that were charged with energy from the solar panels mounted on their roof.

Many homeowners install solar PV on their roof, either for lower electric bills, because it is a good investment that pays back over time (even better than retirement funds in some cases), or because they want to contribute to fighting climate change.

Some homeowners pay for the system and own it, while others rent their roof to a utility who installs, owns, and maintains the system.

Some people even add battery back-up to their solar PV systems and make sure they have power even if the grid goes down.

But this is the first time I have seen renters – especially apartment dwellers – have the ability to take advantage of the benefits of solar PV and also energy resilience.

In fact, this is a kind of pilot project done by PearlX (based out of Virginia) and led by Joey Romano, who developed the building in 2010, with an initial row of solar to offset some of the electricity cost. Then, in 2022 he worked with PearlX (and the residents) to expand the system and add battery back-up.

This is a unique approach to advancing clean energy and making it accessible to more people – not just homeowners but those who rent too. 

Since the power outages during the great Texas freeze of 2021, many Texans would be willing to pay extra to ensure have power during a grid outage. That isn’t usually an option for apartment dwellers, but maybe this project can help pave the way for renters to be able to contribute to fighting climate change and have more reliable power.