Bristol Home Builder Proposes Solar Subdivision

Developer Aaron Lilly is seeking Bristol planning commission approval to construct 30 upscale townhouses using solar power to offset electric bills. He envisions the project as the first solar-powered subdivision east of the Mississippi, reports the Bristol Herald-Courier.

The project would be built on 12.5 hillside acres near an Interstate 81 exit. The townhomes would have 1,600 square feet of living space plus a 400-square-foot garage. Units can be configured with “smart home” technology for monitoring and control that, among other benefits, can provide medical information to a caregiver. Lilly sees the houses as “age in place” residences. He intends to price the properties in the $200,000 to $250,000 range. Said Lilly:

After seeing solar was at least possible, we’ve been working on this for over a year. It is more affordable than ever before and the price of electricity goes up every year. … There would be two meters on the house – one telling how much power we consume from [Bristol Virginia Utilities] and the other how much power is produced and the person would pay the difference.

If power keeps going up and solar keeps coming down, we’re there. If we’re not there yet, we’re close enough. This is our goal and we’re working feverishly to make sure it happens. … The first ones are an experiment. We don’t know how much power we can make.

Planning commissioners were supportive of the proposal and granted preliminary approval.

Bacon’s bottom line: It’s hard to imagine that this is the first time a developer east of the Mississippi has proposed building new townhouses with solar panels on the roof. But I haven’t heard of anyone doing it in Virginia, so, who knows. If Lilly says it’s true, maybe it is. If so, good for him.

Economically, it may make more sense for home builders to install solar during the construction phase — Lilly will build nine connected units in Phase 1 — than for individual homeowners to outsource the project to solar installers one project at a time. Also, Lilly can pocket the solar credits, which might be worth more to him than to individual homeowners. Another selling point is that homeowners can amortize the construction cost over the life of a 30-year mortgage.

Home builders are always looking for a competitive edge. I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more of this kind of activity.

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5 responses to “Bristol Home Builder Proposes Solar Subdivision

  1. Since that story is almost three years old, I’d be curious to know how it all worked out with the Rockett’s location. It has to make more sense to design and build with solar in the original plan and to purchase the equipment in bulk. One day roof panels will be as ubiquitous as water heaters and dishwashers. I think of all the energy wasted as the sun cooked our house in the Mohave all those years ago….

  2. 3 years old and the status? yep… I’d agree… and I wonder if maybe it did not work out because I just don’t see new subdivisions being advertised as “solar” and one might think that to be a popular selling point…

    not to date myself but a few years back I remember the marketing “all electric home”…. and think a modern version might be “All Solar”… i.e rooftop solar, grid solar … electric car outlet in the garage… “connected” appliances and thermostat… ” generates less than half the greenhouse gases than a regular home”!!!

  3. hmm.. must be a story behind that faux-solar, eh?

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