Sonnen partners with homebuilder to develop Net-Zero-Plus community in Florida


Pearl Homes’ Hunters Point Net-Zero Energy home using the sonnen intelligent energy management system.

Sonnen has partnered with Pearl Homes, the U.S. leader in LEED residential development, to bring the vision of solar + storage, home automation and homebuilding to life, resulting in a ‘Net-Zero-Plus and Climate-Positive’ community. The network of homes, dubbed ‘Hunters Point — Pearl Homes Community and Marina,’ is the first community implemented by the sonnen-Pearl Homes partnership, one designed to help decarbonize Manatee County and surrounding regions of Florida by making green living affordable to a broader market.

The second sonnenCommunity to launch in the U.S. market will be installed at Hunters Point in the small fishing village of Cortez, FL. It is comprised of 148 homes pursuing LEED Platinum certification that empower residents to be pioneers in energy and join a movement creating net-zero energy communities. Each home will be equipped with rooftop solar panels, a new and affordable sonnen energy storage system designed for mass market appeal, a smart thermostat and an EV charger – all controlled by way of sonnen’s powerful new energy automation and artificial intelligence (AI) software platform.

Hunter’s Point sonnenCommunity represents the first time an energy storage system has worked in concert with Google Home in a master-planned development, capable of maximizing the intelligent use of each household’s renewable energy. In initial tests, it was determined that the already-built homes are generating approximately 96% of their own clean power, with the goal of being fully net-zero. In total, the Hunter’s Point sonnenCommunity projects represent 9 MWh of storage capacity and 7.2 MW of power.

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Following the installment of the first 148 homes, Pearl Homes will commence a second development comprised of 720 apartments, making additional living options possible for those who don’t currently own a home, but wish to make a difference for the environment. It will be the first net-zero rental community of this size, with cost-affordable pricing designed to provide people of varying income levels with the opportunity to live in a greener residence.

“We are thrilled to partner with Pearl Homes, the unparalleled leader in building LEED Platinum homes in the U.S., as we upend the traditional homebuilding vision and replace it with one based on decarbonizing the grid and establishing a complete solution for green living that is affordable for a much broader market,” said Blake Richetta, Senior Vice President and head of sonnen’s U.S. operations. “Together with our partners at Pearl Homes and Google Home, we are effectively demonstrating the intersection between renewable energy, home automation and homebuilding, establishing a blueprint for the affordable clean energy home of the future.”

The first-of-its-kind community is designed to decongest the wires of the local utility grid, providing load- shaping throughout the day to support intelligent demand management; establish smart configurable backup that provides resiliency and peace of mind for homeowners in the face of storms and other natural disasters; and the ability to live a cleaner lifestyle than any other development in the country.

“For years, energy experts have sought an answer to the solar conundrum: how to generate and store enough solar for our homes,” said Marshall Gobuty, President of Sarasota, FL-based Pearl Homes. “sonnen’s technology in combination with our LEED Platinum home design has changed the equation for the ability to truly optimize smart homes using solar plus storage to the point where we are capable of building sustainable communities that share solar and decarbonize the region, one Pearl Home at a time.”

— Solar Builder magazine

Solar Roof Tiles as Imagined by Tesla


Elon Musk, Tesla CEO and SolarCity chairman recently unveiled a new type of roofing tiles, which are also solar panels. It’s no secret that the Tesla company is rapidly developing new ways of establishing a more sustainable future, and these roofing tiles are a great idea. They would be used to cover a roof just like regular tiles, and thereby incorporate solar energy harvesting potential directly into any home without the need to spend money on and install a separate solar power array.


These solar tiles are made of glass and come in many different styles, including textured tiles, French slate, flat modern and Tuscan style curved roof tiles. Every tile appears opaque when looking at it from ground level, so the solar cells inside it would only be visible from the air.


The main goal of this project was to develop rooftop solar arrays, which would be more aesthetically pleasing than currently available ones. And by having the solar panels also act as roofing tiles, the whole system would also be much more affordable than currently available solutions. The tiles they created in some cases look even nicer than regular ones, while they also last longer, provide better insulation and, according to Musk, “Have an installed cost that is less than a normal roof plus the cost of electricity.”

Tiles made of glass might not sound very durable, but they tested their durability by dropping a weight onto a roof covered in them from above. The tiles did not shatter as traditional roofing tiles do in such a test, but only cracked. They did not yet announce the price of these tiles, or their energy generation and insulation value. But it is a project well worth following as it goes forward.


Apart from introducing these new solar roof tiles, Tesla also announced the second generation of their Powerwall battery. The so-called Powerwall 2 is basically a battery pack, which is capable of providing 14 kWh of storage. This is enough to provide sufficient power for everything needed in a four-bedroom home for a day. Hooked up to a rooftop mounted solar system, it could in theory be used to power a home for quite a long time. The Powerwall 2 costs $5,500 and they will begin taking orders for it soon. Its development is a joint effort between Tesla and SolarCity.

Modern Passive House


Passive homes tend to be a little boxy and unappealing, which is probably the reason they haven’t caught on as much as they could. So it’s nice to see companies finding ways around that. One such example is certainly the Cousins River Residence, which was designed by GO Logic of Maine. This firm has been making prefab and passivhaus homes for a while now, and the simple elegance of their designs sets them apart from others.


The Cousins River Residence is located in Freeport, Maine. It measures 1600 square feet designed and was built to Passivhaus standards. It is very well insulated with the foundation having a rating of R35, the wall R50, and roof R80. It was also fitted with high performance triple pane German windows, which provide 50% solar heat gain and have a rating of R8. The home also features a heat recovery ventilation system that boasts of an 88% efficiency. The shell of the home is airtight and provides 0.5 air changes per hour at 50 Pa. The home is also near net-zero, and features a rooftop mounted 4.6 KW Photovoltaic array, which takes care of the remaining energy needs.

The specs are great, but what’s also very impressive is that the home is modern architecture at it’s best. The shape of a home is simple enough to blend in seamlessly in any environment, and the color palette they chose is mostly whites and naturals. The single story home features a large living and dining area, with a spacious kitchen at one end. One of the walls of this area is covered by glass doors that let in plenty of natural light into the home, which is something not often seen in passive homes.




The home also features a wooden deck, a screened-in porch as well as a covered walkway. One of the main aims the designers had when planning the home was to provide freedom of movement both inside the home, and between the interior and exterior. They also designed it so that it is easily accessible for both the young and the old, since the current owners plan to spend a long time living in it.



Net Zero Prefab Home Built in California


Mark Jacobson, a professor at Stanford University, California recently commissioned the Canadian firm Bone Structure to build him a prefab net-zero home. And the result is shaping up to be quite astounding. He chose the company because of their proven ability to minimize construction waste, dust and disruption to neighbors, as well as the flexibility and versatility of its steel frame construction method.



The home measures 3,200-sq ft (297-sq m), which is quite large for a net-zero home. The columns and beams needed for framing were precision laser cut at a factory before being transported to the build site and assembled. In this way they were able to make the most of the oddly shaped lot on which the home is built, and achieve an interior layout, which would simply not be possible using traditional construction methods.


Constructing the frame was done in only a few days by five workers using just battery-powered drills and a single type of self-tapping screw, which were used to attach the columns and beams. The next step was installing the electrical, plumbing, heating and ventilation systems, which was made easier by the precut openings in the frame. Once this was achieved, precut insulation panels were clipped into place between the steel columns. Polyurethane foam insulation spray was used to seal the building and act as a vapor barrier. According to the company, a shell like this leaves practically no waste, is fully recyclable and creates a tight, energy-efficient building envelope.


The home is still being constructed, though it will be available to tour on June 24-26. Once completed, the home will be powered solely by electricity (i.e. no gas or other sources). They will install heat pumps for air and water heating, use an induction stove, and all the necessary power will be provided by rooftop-mounted solar panels, with the excess energy stored using Tesla batteries.

Bone Structure is planning to build 50 more homes in the area in the next year.

Net Zero Prefab That Can be Built in Just Three Days


Unity Homes has recently unveiled a prefab home, which is sustainable yet still made to last for at least as long as traditionally constructed homes. The home has a number of certifications, including LEED v4 Platinum, while it is also net-zero energy and can be constructed on site in three days or less. It is also fitted with the largest number of Cradle to Cradle (C2C) certified building products used in a residential project to date.

This so-called Zūm model was built in collaboration with BUILDER magazine and the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute. The demo home pictured above, which was exhibited at the 2015 Greenbuild event, was made in the company’s factory in New Hampshire in just five weeks. It measures 1,620-square-feet, and features two bedrooms and two bathrooms. On the Expo floor, the shell was built in a day and a half, and the rest, including the furnishings and additions took an extra two days.




The home is insulated using GreenFiber Cel-Pak cellulose insulation, which is made of 85% recycled paper fibers. To create the home’s airtight envelope, which targets .6 ACH50, they used Huber Engineered Woods’ ZIP Systems wall and roofing panels. The home is also fitted with fully operable triple-glazed unplasticized PVC (uPVC) Intus windows. The home is equipped with a Zehnder ComfoSystems CA 200 heat recovery and ventilation system, which works to provide an uninterrupted flow of fresh air into the home.



Furthermore, the home is fitted with SunPower solar panels, which are the only solar panels to have received C2C certification. They are made completely out of non-hazardous materials and come with an energy meter and app. This is only one of many C2C materials and products used to build the home.


According to the company, they can build one of these homes in just 30 days yet they will be around for 300 years. They also use no fossil-fuels in the building process. Unity Homes wish to offer affordable as well as sustainable homes, so this prefab is priced at under $150 per square foot. This number could still drop to under $140 per square foot in 2016.