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Austin neighborhood to be fueled by Tesla solar, battery tech

Kara Carlson
Austin American-Statesman
Energy efficient houses are being built in SunHouse at Easton Park, a future neighborhood being developed in partnership between Tesla, Brookfield Residential and Darca.

Solar panels and other sustainable features are rising in popularity for individual homeowners — Austin is soon to be home to a solar- and alternative-powered community fueled by Tesla technology. 

The project, called SunHouse at Easton Park, is a partnership between Tesla, Brookfield Assett Management and real estate developer Dacra. It will be the first Tesla solar neighborhood, the companies said. 

Each house in the development will include solar-powered roof tiles and battery storage walls. The development is on the same property as Brookfield Residential’s Easton Park master-planned residential community, but will be a separate project.

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The neighborhood will use solar roof and battery products made by Tesla Energy, the clean energy subsidiary of Tesla, the electric automobile company. Tesla Energy develops photovoltaic solar energy generation systems, battery energy storage products and other solar energy products for residential, industrial and commercial use. 

Telsa CEO Elon Musk said the Austin project will help shape the future of housing and sustainable technology projects. 

"Neighborhood solar installations across all housing types will reshape how people live,” In a statement," Musk said in a written statement.“Brookfield and Dacra’s commitment to stay at the vanguard of that evolution is what makes them the right collaborator for Tesla Energy. The feedback we get from the solar and battery products used in this community will impact how we develop and launch new products.” 

Each house will each be equipped with Tesla V3 roof tiles, which function as both solar panels and roof tiles at the same time. Each will also have Powerwall 2 battery storage, which holds the power that's generated when not in use so it can be used when the sun isn't out or as backup power in the event of an outage. The project also calls for incorporating technology options such as electric vehicle charging stations and smart devices in the homes. 

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Energy efficient houses are being built in SunHouse at Easton Park, a future neighborhood being developed in partnership between Tesla, Brookfield Residential and Darca.

Brad Chelton, president of Brookfield Residential Texas, said the project started with casual conversations a few months ago, after Tesla representatives reached out to Brookfield about their shared ambition for sustainable housing. 

"Easton Park is an extremely well located, best in class masterplan in Austin. Tesla also has a significant operational footprint in Austin," Chelton said. "Then you look at the macro where Austin nationally is viewed as you know one of the most intriguing places for folks to relocate." 

Chelton said consumers are increasingly interested in housing with green elements.

"I think generally consumers want to live in a home that's more sustainable, and a community that's more sustainable, more eco friendly," he said. "We are trying to be at the forefront of delivering of what we see consumers really already asking for." Brookfield said the solar technology will allow the residents to produce energy needed for their day to day, and reduce demand on the electric grid, and could actually make money returning energy to the grid.

For Tesla, Chelton said, new construction like SunHouse offers more predictability to the cost and installation process as compared to an existing house. This will allow Tesla to scale and deploy the technology to the products more quickly. 

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The neighborhood will be built in phases, and the first installations have been underway since June. Chelton said the project is using "crawl, walk, run" phases.  Currently in crawl, the project has less than a dozen homes are under construction, and about half have the Tesla roof installed. 

"Our primary goal of phase one is to really work out the kinks from a logistical perspective," he said. "How do you install this roof the most efficient way possible? How do you make sure supply chains are ready to move the space and volume, make sure labor is available to install all this?"  

He said these lessons will be taken as the project enters the second phase where the company will use the model on several hundred houses, and from there the third phase where the technology is applied to as many as a few thousand homes. 

If all is successful on the Austin project, Chelton said it could become a model for sustainable communities throughout the U.S. 

"As we pilot this and as we learn more about how to make this more and more efficient, the opportunity is certainly there to expand, and maybe even export this concept to other communities in other states where Brookfield has large, significant masterplans," Chelton said. 

The new community comes as construction continues on Tesla continues to build out a new $1.1 billion Austin-area manufacturing facility in southeastern Travis County. The car maker  could start rolling out vehicles in a limited capacity as soon as later this year. It's expected to produce Tesla's Cybertruck, Semi, Model 3, company sedan, Model Y as well as batteries.