“Home as a Service” Model Brings Affordable Microgrids to Military Veterans

Feb. 21, 2020
A veteran’s community project plans to provide microgrids to 37 US military veterans in homes in Perris, California, under a home as a service model that the developer hopes to replicate nationally.

A California community plans to provide microgrids to 37 US military veterans in Perris, California, under a home as a service model that the developer hopes to replicate nationally.

All American Homes is acting as builder with Instant On, a battery and fuel cell distribution company, providing batteries, solar and controls for the pilot project. The partnership also is planning a second undertaking of 200 homes that will add fuel cells to the energy mix.

Ultimately, All American Homes hopes to build about one million homes across the country using this model.

Each home in the pilot project will have 5 kW of solar, 40 kWh of battery storage and an advanced home energy management system, said AJ Perkins, president of Instant On. The community center will be equipped with a 1 MW battery.

“What’s unique about this project is using a large battery storage system — 40 kWh for each home — to ensure homes don’t experience blackouts,” he said.

In addition to providing backup power for the homes, the batteries will be used for participation in demand response markets. The income generated will help pay for the microgrids and lower the overall cost of the project.

The oversized batteries will help SCE with grid stability, Perkins said. And the project will help the veteran’s community avoid the effects of public safety power shutoffs by SCE.  The shutoffs, a de-energizing of lines to help prevent wildfires, caused chaos in the state last year when Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to over a million people.

How home as a service works

In the project, funded through a private equity company based in Florida, All American Homes will offer “home as a service” arrangements. The developer will own the houses, microgrids, solar PV, batteries and community facilities. Homeowners will pay $2,500 a month for a three bedroom, two bath home with a two-car garage on a 60 by 100 foot lot in a gated community that includes a walking path, clubhouse and pool. The price includes all utilities, internet and taxes, said Frank Wilde, managing director for All American Homes.

Owners will start gaining equity in their homes after five years, and will own the homes, solar, storage and batteries after 30 years, he said.

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By comparison, renting a 1-bedroom apartment in California is about $2,200 a month, he said.

“Over time, we will build our homes in 27 states and accommodate homeowners who may need to relocate for job opportunities,” Wilde said.

Affordable microgrids for veterans

All-American Homes is able to offer veterans this price due to its partnership with Instant On.

To sell services to the utility, Instant On will use a control system that will monitor when and how homeowners use energy. The control system also will determine when it’s best for the community to use solar, grid power or batteries to meet the energy demand from the community.

“The revenue generated by both the 40 kWh batteries in each home and the 1 MW battery for the community center is significant,” said Perkins.

Instant On will serve as the project lead consultant and microgrid equipment distributor. Green Retrofits California will provide the solar and battery engineering procurement and construction.

Energport will supply the high voltage, containerized battery for the community center. And Instant On/PowerSync will supply 40 kWh low voltage batteries for each home. Advanced microgrid controls will come from Naak. Enersponse will be the demand response aggregator, said Perkins.

Fuel cell microgrids for next project

In its second project, Instant On will equip one third of the houses with fuel cell microgrids, with the fuel cells powered by natural gas. One third will be solar microgrids, and one third will be fuel cells and solar.

“The fuel cells should give us the best economics,” Perkins said. Instead of contributing to California’s solar excess during daylight hours, the fuel cells, combined with solar and storage, could provide power 24 hours a day.

With this system, the utility will be able to use the microgrid and its resources not only for demand response, but to help SCE meet state resource adequacy requirements needed to provide safe and reliable operation of the grid.

Given the cost and advantages of homes equipped with microgrids and the home as a service contract, veterans across the country are standing in line to become homeowners under this program, according to Perkins.

“The housing company surveyed 20,000 vets and got 80,000 responses,” said Perkins. “Vets spread the survey to each other, and many said they want a part in this.”

Construction on the pilot project begins in August with goal to have veterans in the modular built homes in January.

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About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

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