Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of The Southern Company, has announced plans to build a so-called smart neighborhood in Lauderdale County. The community will be the first in the world to feature a Tesla Solar Roof and a Tesla Powerwall residential storage battery for every home. In total, 150 homes are planned with construction of the first 45 set to begin early next year. Jeff Shepard, a spokesperson for the company, tells Utility Dive the homes will also feature smart technologies such as energy efficient heating and cooling, smart thermostats and refrigerators, and automated controls for indoor lighting.
Mississippi Power and Tesla partnered earlier this summer on the installation of the state’s first Tesla Solar Roof on a Habitat for Humanity home in nearby Hattiesburg, MS. The roof took under three days to be installed by Cross Roofing, a Tesla-certified installer. Shepard says the smart neighborhood’s initial installation of the roofs will be used as a research and development pilot project to learn how they perform in the southern Mississippi climate before being applied to future home remodeling and neighborhood developments. “It’s our job to know what kind of impact these technologies will have on our customers’ lives,” he said. The Southern Company also hopes to learn about the impact of solar roofs and other smart technology on the grid, reliability, energy consumption, and related costs.
Tesla has done other collaborations with utility company, particularly Green Mountain Power in Vermont and the state of South Australia. In Vermont, selected customers are able to purchase a Powerwall for a ridiculously cheap price if they allow the utility to tap it when need to support the grid. In South Australia, Tesla is equipping 50,000 homes with rooftop solar systems and Powerwalls, creating one of the largest virtual power plants in the world. The initial reports indicate that project is exceeding all expectations.
People continue to assume that Tesla is all about selling electric cars and that it focuses almost exclusively on production numbers from the Fremont and Shanghai factories, but Elon Musk has said on a number of occasions he expects his company’s solar and storage business to surpass the vehicle business at some point. Once Tesla has all the bugs out of its Solar Roof, learns how to install it quickly, and trains enough roofing contractors, its rooftop solar business should accelerate significantly.