- Southern Company subsidiary Mississippi Power, a utility that serves over 188,000 customers across 23 southeast Mississippi counties, recently announced a partnership to build what it says is the world’s first smart neighborhood to exclusively feature the Tesla Solar Roof.
- The Lauderdale County neighborhood will undergo the construction of about 45 homes in its initial phase, with plans to build up to 150 homes. Construction on the smart neighborhood is set to begin in early 2021.
- The homes will also feature technology like smart home automation; Tesla Powerwall batteries, which store energy to be available on-demand at any time; and energy-efficient equipment and appliances like smart thermostats and refrigerators, according to Mississippi Power spokesperson Jeff Shepard.
Mississippi Power and Tesla partnered earlier this summer to install 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 via Tesla-certified installer Cross Roofing.
The smart neighborhood's initial installation of the roofs will be used as a research and development pilot project to learn how the roofs will perform in the southern Mississippi climate, said Shepard, noting these are the types of technologies that will be used for future home remodeling and neighborhood developments.
"It's our job to know what kind of impact these technologies will have on our customers' lives," Shepard said.
The utility also hopes to learn about the impact of solar roofs and other smart technology on the grid and reliability, and on energy consumption and related costs, according to Shepard.
During its Q3 earnings call in October, Tesla CEO Elon Musk predicted further growth for the company's solar roof product. Company executives cited the need to hire and train more installers as the solar division's biggest obstacle, in addition to improving component packaging to decrease installation time.
The Mississippi smart neighborhood represents one of the latest moves among cities and communities looking to roofs for energy-saving opportunities.
New York targeted its over 1.6 billion square feet of rooftop in November of 2019 via two laws, known as the "Sustainable Roof Laws," mandating that any new roof construction include either a green roof system or feature solar photovoltaic panels. The laws are also designed to support the city's Climate Mobilization Act, which aims to achieve 100% clean electricity by 2040 and carbon neutrality by 2050.
As of Oct. 31, there were 107,019 completed solar roof projects in New York, with 5,519 projects currently being constructed, according to NYSolarMap.com. The proliferation of solar roofs is also supported by the lowering cost, with the cost of solar in New York falling from $4.95 per watt in 2012 to $2.07 per watt.
A number of other tech giants, including Google, are also heavily investing in the support of solar measures. Google recently announced the expansion of its Environmental Insights Explorer (EIE), an aggregated mapping data and emission insights tool, to 3,000 global cities. The solution can help cities understand their solar energy potential, in addition to estimating the carbon footprint of a city building and transportation options.