Significant residential and renewable energy construction may be coming to Austin, Texas in the coming years: Tesla Energy, Brookfield Asset Management, and Dacra recently announced their intentions to build “the nation’s most sustainable residential community” near the city’s McKinney Falls State Park.
The first Tesla Solar neighborhood will be constructed in the city’s Easton Park master-planned community, with the provisional name of “SunHouse at Easton Park.” The plan is for the community to be 100% self-sufficient in its energy consumption and completely “energy-neutral,” with solar roof setups on each home producing enough energy to supply the community’s energy needs.
“Neighborhood solar installations across all housing types will reshape how people live,” said Tesla CEO Elon Musk.
“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.”
According to the July 9, 2021, announcement, the first phase of the project actually began in June 2021, with the companies starting the first construction of homes. The project will use a sample group of homes in order to “provide insight and information on product integration, which will guide the installation at the next phase of significantly more homes.”
The final phase of the process will include the full master planned community, and will focus on what the companies call “the goal of establishing an energy-neutral, sustainable community and a model for the design and construction of sustainable large-scale housing projects around the world.”
Musk has spoken about the positive way that Tesla views Austin as a destination before, and this has led to major construction work in the city. In fact, construction is well underway on the company’s major Giga Texas manufacturing project, with Musk noting via Twitter that “[the construction team] is making excellent progress.”
The often-controversial Musk — one of the country’s most notorious entrepreneurs-turned-celebrities — is significantly active on Twitter, making a number of updates and claims about Tesla’s progress on projects and goals via his personal account. This has offered some level of insight into the possibilities of the Tesla Solar neighborhood system, with Musk making claims about the advancements of its solar community such as “Solar + Powerwall battery ensures that your home never loses power.”
As Musk mentioned, the companies’ joint press release notes that Tesla V3 solar tiles and Powerwall 2 battery storage will be installed in phases at the SunHouse community.
Similarly, Musk had previously used his platform to bring attention to what he called an “urgent need to build more housing in greater Austin” while teasing the idea of “Austin++” in April 2021.
“It’s going to be the biggest boomtown that America has seen in 50 years,” Musk said of the city’s potential growth.
Tesla’s partners, Brookfield and Dacra — both real estate development companies — telegraphed similar excitement over the project’s possibilities.
While Tesla will be in charge of oversight of the community’s energy system, the project’s press release notes that “Brookfield’s renewable power business will integrate a community-wide solar program to serve broader public use needs and surrounding neighborhoods,” and “will also incorporate a suite of technology features, including electric vehicle charging stations in each home and throughout the community.”
“This initiative brings together multiple parts of our organization with innovative and forward-thinking partners that share a commitment to advance the development of sustainable communities,” said Brian Kingston, CEO of Brookfield’s Real Estate Group.
“As consumers increasingly seek out energy security alongside sustainable places to live, combining Tesla’s solar technology together with Brookfield’s real estate and renewables development capabilities will help us meet demand for environmentally responsible communities of the future,” Kingston continued.
“Our goal is to establish that fully-sustainable neighborhoods are not only viable, but the best practical and economical choice,” added Dacra CEO Craig Robins. “Together with Brookfield and Tesla, we are trying to change the world by creating technology-driven, energy independent communities that make the world a better place.”
Austin officials and community members are supportive of the job creation and activity Tesla has brought to the area
Officials in Austin are supportive of the initiative, as well, as the development would mean major renewable energy and residential construction in the city.
“The City of Austin is excited for the arrival of these affordable options to housing powered by renewable energy,” said Austin Mayor Steve Adler. “I am excited for the Tesla, Brookfield, and Dacra partnership’s approach to sustainable energy and housing as an example of the out-of-box thinking that continues to make our community a beacon of innovation for the rest of the country and world.”
Community members and fans of Tesla have reacted positively to the company’s expansions in Austin, as well. Gail Alfar, a member of the Austin Tesla Club, voiced a very positive opinion of the impact Tesla has had on the community so far, saying that “It’s amazing to see that communities can benefit from the Texas Gigafactory and through Elon Musk‘s leadership and the dynamic Tesla team. It’s insane to see so much being accomplished so fast not only around Central Texas but also in places like Louisiana, where there is a really great need as well for jobs.”
There may be even more opportunities on the horizon for Tesla in Texas. Musk recently noted that he had moved to Texas, and was hoping to expand construction for his companies in the state after the success of their first projects: “The two biggest things that I’ve got going on right now are the starship development here in South Texas, which was set in motion five years ago, and then the big new factory development for Tesla… just by Austin. Those necessarily drive the use of my time here.”
Ambitious construction plans have held Tesla back in recent projects
The ambitious goals of Tesla’s construction plans display a lot of possibilities for contractors and builders, but it’s important to note the difficulties that the company has faced in its other recent projects — even as the SunHouse project and Giga Texas facility move quickly.
The construction of Tesla’s $7 billion factory in Germany, Giga Berlin — its first major European assembly plant — has been held up by environmental legal challenges, delays in approval process, and the company’s own revisions.
Tesla does have a history of overly optimistic timelines for its goals, as well — production facilities like Giga Berlin (which, though originally intended to open in July 2021, is now aiming for an early 2022 opening) and Buffalo, New York’s Gigafactory 2 (which is struggling to create jobs and maintain solar cell output) have fallen well behind the company’s goals, greatly impacting contracting jobs.
This may also have negative impacts on the marketability and profitability of the company’s electric cars, a major aspect driving its construction expansion — as the New York Times recently noted, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz, and Renault are looking to similarly establish competing lineups of electric cars.
“The European market is completely hot at the moment,” noted independent analyst Matthias Schmidt. “Definitely it’s an opportunity missed for Tesla and an opportunity gained for European manufacturers.”
In a July 2021 call with investors, Musk additionally noted that worldwide supply shortages were similarly holding back the country’s ambitious goals, saying that company officials have had “many calls at midnight, 1 a.m., just with suppliers about resolving a lot of the shortages.”