At Wendell Falls, a new-home community in Wendell, N.C., a one-of-a-kind energy storage system has been added to the list of green energy upgrades available to homeowners.
Raleigh, N.C.-based Homes by Dickerson, a Wendell Falls builder, partnered with Morrisville, N.C.-based Southern Energy Management (SEM) to install the first Powerwall at the community, one of the first uses of the Tesla product in the state. Developed by San Diego, Calif.-based Newland Communities, Wendell Falls encompasses more than 1,100 acres near Raleigh, N.C.
The Tesla Powerwall is a rechargeable lithium ion battery that works in conjunction with solar panels to store excess energy. By making this energy available on demand, day or night, the Powerwall roughly doubles the amount of solar energy that directly powers the home, according to Tesla. When used by homeowners on a time-of-use (TOU) rate plan, the wall can help save money by charging and discharging according to peak times and prices. The Powerwall also provides backup power during outages by automatically disconnecting from the grid and restoring power to a home for seven days or longer, Tesla says.
Homes in Wendell Falls have an average score of 62 on the HERS Index, according to the developers. Dickerson’s homes there are Energy Star certified and are certified Bronze by the National Green Building Standard, with features like low-flow fixtures and faucets, tankless gas heaters, and radiant barrier roof sheathing. Homeowners who want to ratchet up their home’s performance even more can opt for solar panels and a 13.5 kw/hour Powerwall, which can bring the home to net-zero energy.
SEM says the average cost for a solar array on these homes, which range from 2,000 to 3,674 square feet, is $20,000 to $25,000, and federal tax credits allow homeowners to deduct 30 percent of that cost. A fully installed Powerwall costs $10,000 in addition to that and is also eligible for the 30 percent tax credit.
Since tax deductions only offset part of the steep costs for these technologies, Graham Alexander, senior residential energy specialist for SEM, says the decision to upgrade comes down to a combination of factors. Although the price tag is a deterrent for some buyers, according to Alexander, others treat the purchase like an investment in a generator, which might not offer a financial return but does provide a homeowner peace of mind in an outage.
“It’s not as much wanting to save more money with the Powerwall as the security of knowing you have power in the event of a grid failure and a little more energy autonomy,” he says.
Not only are Powerwall users less susceptible to hourly fluctuations in the cost of energy, they’re able to monitor and manage their home energy usage through the Tesla app.
According to Homes by Dickerson superintendent Jonathan Bailey, buyers and homeowners with the budget to upgrade generally choose the upscale kitchen or other additions they will see and touch every day. However, the availability of these solar options and Tesla technologies is shedding light on the benefits of independent residential energy systems.
“We get asked about solar a lot more often today than we did four or five years ago, but the challenge is getting people to understand that it’s a long-term investment,” he says.
Even if the kitchen upgrades are winning for now, Alexander says interest in smart, renewable energy systems is rising across North Carolina. “There’s a strong trend toward clean energy and higher-end smart home technology. Producing your own energy and being able to store it and control when you use it - that’s the pinnacle,” he says.