SolarCity and PSW, a home builder based in Texas, are partnering to construct two communities in the Dallas-Forth Worth area with pre-installed solar arrays on each home.
As CleanTechnica reports, each home will be outfitted with a three kilowatt solar array. The cost of the solar electricity will be prepaid by the builder, with no additional monthly costs for the homeowner. SolarCity will handle the installation, insurance, as well as the monitoring and repair duties.
Each home will also have tankless water heaters, a digitized and programmable energy-efficient HVAC system, and Energy Star appliances.
SolarCity and PSW estimate the setup will cut each home’s lifetime carbon dioxide emissions by over half. And since a 10 kilowatt system is generally more than enough to power the average house, the energy savings from a 3 kilowatt system could be considerable.
The program isn’t SolarCity’s first foray into unusual partnerships: in February, the company joined Honda and Acura to offer low-cost solar power purchase agreements to customers who buy a car from the two companies. Nationwide, SolarCity is on a quest to effectively double the number of American homes with solar arrays by 2016.
The program is also one small part of the remarkable solar trend in Texas, where the median installation cost for a 10 kilowatt system is lower than anywhere else in the country — despite the refusal of Rick Perry, the state’s Republican governor, and the GOP-controlled state legislature to even acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change.
The two Dallas-Fort Worth neighborhoods SolarCity and PSW will be outfitting are the 1600 Kings Highway community, which will include 31 single family homes, and the Bishop Heights community, which will include 45. Homes in both neighborhoods will boast 3 to 4 bedrooms, 2 to 3 baths, 1700 to 2700 square feet, and start at $300,000.
Unfortunately, that price tag leaves those homes affordable only for the well-off. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a household is considered “cost burdened” if they have to spend more than 30 percent of their income on housing, and “may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing, transportation and medical care.” According to a mortgage calculator like Zwillow a 30-year fixed rate mortgage on a $300,000 home — with a 10 percent downpayment at current interest rates and including taxes and insurance — comes out to a monthly payment of $1,812. A household would have to make $72,468 a year for that to be 30 percent of their income or less. But half the households in Dallas make only $60,383 or less.
The good news is households with incomes from $90,000 all the way down to $40,000 are driving the bulk of home solar use, according to a recent Center for American Progress report.
And efforts are underway to bring these kinds of renewable benefits to less well-off households. Solar gardens are popping up across the country to service low-income communities; GRID Alternatives is installing solar arrays for free on low-income households in California and Colorado, and will soon move into New york and New Jersey; and a Chicago program is bringing solar to affordable multifamily units.