Tesla owner Mallory Tompsett lives in the Whisper Valley area of Austin and had an idea for Tesla Energy. The idea is for Tesla to partner or collaborates with Whisper Valley to create another solar neighborhood. Whisper Valley already has three approved solar companies that perform additional installation, and each of these companies is approved by Tesla to install Tesla solar systems. Mallory shared a quick overview of Whisper Valley with me.
“We are a net-zero capable community, and every home has a geothermal HVAC (it’s a very unique geothermal system – it’s the first of its kind and the largest in the world), solar panels, NEMA 14-50 plugs in the garage, and spray foam insulation. We also all have high-speed Google Fiber internet, as well as Nest cameras and Nest thermostats included with every home.
“As far as HERS (Home Efficiency Rating System, scores are concerned, every home is either in the 20s to teens – our own home is the 20s, and that’s for a 2,100 sq. ft home! We also have organic gardens throughout the community where the bounty is shared, miles of hiking/biking trails, playgrounds, and a geothermally-heated pool with solar panels that produce their own water at the Discovery Center.
“We have, as well, as 2 Tesla destination chargers and a J1772 charger that are all powered from the massive solar panel array on top of the Discovery Center. We will eventually have 2 schools (an elementary and a middle school in the Del Valle School District), multi-family housing (i.e.apartments), retail, and a hub farm – note that all buildings and dwellings in Whisper Valley have/will have solar panels and geothermal HVACs.”
Mallory referred me to David Currie, who is the Community Relations Manager for EcoSmart Solutions and explained that he knew a lot about how Tesla could join the Whisper Valley community and help it continue its transformation into a solar neighborhood.
What EcoSmart Solutions Does
David gave me a brief introduction to EcoSmart Solutions and told me the core fundamentals of what EcoSmart is and does. Those are:
1. Modeling for solar. David explained that they work with the developer as an intermediary to size solar systems as standard features for all houses in Whisper Valley.
2. Geothermal Technology. Something Tesla doesn’t do is specialize in geothermal technology. It is a great renewable HVAC solution that EcoSmart does specialize in, though.
“We have this conception of an idea, in general — the public’s eyes — that geothermal is how you generate electricity from hot sources of water, magma underneath the ground. You use a steam turbine to be able to convert that into energy and then you can have a clean renewable. That is not what we do.
“We use a system called the geothermal exchange. So what we’re doing is we’re taking the heat out of the home through what’s called a ground source heat pump and we’re sending that into pipes in the back yard. That goes down into the ground. All that water that’s inside of the pipes is a great conductor for heat, so we’re actually charging the earth like a battery.
“So once you get down past a certain depth, the temperatures there remain really stable and it’s really nice to use for this kind of medium. Instead of having outdoor condensers or traditional HVAC units that are outside where they’re exposed to the elements and they’ve gotta deal with some pretty hot air — in Texas, especially; it gets well over 100 degrees here.
“Our ground source heat pumps are actually in the attic inside of the home. We have what’s called the Geogrid — an EcoSmart specific term — and it’s a series of loops. We’ve got a horizontal loop district. There’s a vertical pipe and that’s our well. It’s about 350 feet deep and there’s one well per lot. We connect each of these wells up throughout the entire neighborhood in a series of specialized easement systems and they connect to a pumphouse where they have monitors that monitor the pressure, water, and temperature over the course of time in real-time remotely.”
David compared the system to the human body and described how the system is able to charge the earth as a battery during the summertime while warming homes in the winter.
“You’ve got your veins which are your wells, you’ve got your arteries which are the easements, and you’ve got your heart which is our pumphouse, which is also called the energy center.
“If you think about it as a systematic cycle, in the summertime, we’re charging the battery which is earth and in the wintertime, we’re taking that warm water which can be upwards of 80 degrees even in the dead of winter, and funneling that back inside of the house and using that to heat the home.”
David explained that EcoSmart has two phases up and plans to have a total of 52 phases in Whisper Valley along with a million square feet of commercial space and an elementary and middle school. This will total up to around 7,500 homes all using geothermal exchange.
Another thing that EcoSmart does is provide builders and homeowners smart home technology by offering a sense monitor inside the home. David said that with the sense monitor, EcoSmart helps educate homeowners on their energy behavior. It clips inside of the breaker box and listens to the wavelengths of the electricity passing through.
It will try to differentiate between items being used in the house. A blender would sound different to this device than a microwave, for example. You’ll be able to see how much electricity you are using when blow-drying your hair or making a shake or charging your phone. It will also show what your solar generation is and help you understand resource management about what’s going on inside of your home.
“All of this is designed to reduce peak demand. That’s the summation of our goal.”
How Tesla Energy Would Fit In
Mallory’s idea was for Tesla to partner with her neighborhood because she would love to see Tesla Energy have more of a presence in her neighborhood. I asked David, if Tesla was to do this, what would it need to do?
“We’re already doing it. There are over 240 homes with solar on every single roof. It comes built into the closing cost. For us to work with Tesla, literally all it would be is having a distributor that puts Tesla on and having Tesla say ‘we’re here now, too.’ But this one’s also geothermal.”
David also explained that the value of a Tesla Powerwall is significantly higher in Whisper Valley than conventional communities due to the energy consumption from the ground source heat pump being so low.
“Due to the efficiency of the ground source heat pump, you can actually back up your AC, fridge, your wifi, and lights on one single Powerwall, which you really can not do with traditional HVAC systems.”
Although EcoSmart is doing a lot of similar things to Tesla and could be considered a competitor, it would be interesting to see the two collaborate for Whisper Valley, and perhaps EcoSmart could help Tesla become even more efficient and effective by enabling Tesla to add geothermal technology to its energy products.
Featured image courtesy of Whisper Valley
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