They are arguably more environmentally conscious than even millennials. So what does this mean for the housing sector and more importantly the multi-family leasing segment? Simply put, GEN Y will place a premium on their housing purchases based on the environmental factors involved with that purchase. Soleil Lofts is a new rental community in the suburban Salt Lake City and is a first of its kind community that incorporates solar power production and energy storage into a virtual power plant (VPP). A VPP works through the electric utility to provide real meaningful value to the utility as well as the residents of the community. By incorporating energy storage at the site of consumption, the need for additional utility infrastructure and additional carbon-producing electricity peaker plants is averted. This is important because peaker plants are a huge producer of carbon emissions. Energy storage placed at the point of energy consumption is key to the decarbonization of the electric grid.
NPR did a recent segment on the community, and the one thing that stood out to me was the following from residents Seth and Aurora McCausland:
NPR HOST: "Aurora and Seth McCausland and their two kids live in the newly constructed Soleil Lofts. They like the apartment's stainless-steel appliances, modern tile, and sweeping mountain views. But the main reason they moved here is a sleek white box in the middle of their living room."
SETH MCCAUSLAND: "We always have people ask us about it whenever we - they come over. They're always like, what is that? They always think it's, like, a fridge or something." (laughter)
NPR HOST: "Actually, it's a battery. It stores power generated by solar panels on the roof. The batteries are state-of-the-art, which pushes up the rent here by about $150 for a one-bedroom unit. But to Aurora, the clean energy component makes it worth the extra cost."
AURORA MCCAUSLAND: "We loved the idea of moving somewhere where it's doing something good for the environment."
Soleil lofts are still under construction but the first phases are now open, The developer reports extraordinary market interest in the community with future residents putting down deposits on units that are yet to be completed. The feeling from the developer, the residents, and the local electric utility are resoundingly positive. Soleil Lofts are the first but certainly will not be the last multifamily virtual power plant project.