February 17, 2023
Filed Under: Whisper Valley

Geothermal Tech Weathers Texas Ice Storm; Home Batteries Provide Resiliency

The January 2023 Texas ice storm resulted in major power outages across the Austin area; the second time severe weather took out the grid during bitter cold temperatures in the past two years. Many Austin homeowners are left grappling with how they can better protect themselves and prepare their homes in the event of another grid failure.

Whisper Valley in East Austin provides a strong solution through an optional upgrade add-on to the community’s zero energy capable homes: Home batteries. Energy storage options pair with the solar PV in Whisper Valley homes to store excess energy collected during sunlight hours. The homeowner can utilize the power stored in their home battery during nights or in the event of a power outage to operate independently from the grid for the duration of the charge.

In addition to solar PV arrays, Whisper Valley homes are heated and cooled by geothermal heat pumps connected to revolutionary, community-wide network of geothermal exchange infrastructure: the GeoGrid™. The GeoGrid™ is naturally winterized due to its location underground, where it is protected from the harsh elements.

The GeoGrid™ weathered both the 2023 ice storm and the historic 2021 Winter Storm Uri. During the recent storm, however, falling trees caused a majority of the power outages across Austin. This presented new challenges as utility crews scrambled to restore power on a mass-scale.

When power was restored to Whisper Valley after a 5- to 6-hour outage, the community’s geothermal exchange infrastructure remained protected and immediately began delivering heat to homes through the network of ground source heat pumps. EcoSmart Solution, Whisper Valley’s green energy service provider, also monitored the GeoGrid™ around the clock and sent real-time updates and information to homeowners during the event.

A big advantage of utilizing geothermal energy in both winter storm scenarios is that the GeoGrid™ did not disrupt the electric grid with a surge in demand since geothermal heat pumps do not require as much power to heat homes. In fact, ground source heat pumps in Whisper Valley reduce heating and cooling energy consumption by 40 to 70 percent when compared to a traditional HVAC unit.

Solar PV on every Whisper Valley home also lightened the load even further since solar panels can quickly shed snow and ice loads to start generating electricity from the sun.

“Homes in Whisper Valley are designed to consume less energy which naturally reduces the overall energy required and puts less strain on the state’s electric grid,” said Wesley Brinkmeyer, Manager of Energy Services for Bluebonnet Electric Cooperative.

Whisper Valley homeowners with home batteries installed were able to operate independently from the grid during both winter storm outages. Michael Thurman, owner of Thurman Homes, confirmed his model home in Whisper Valley utilized stored energy from the home’s Tesla Powerwall.

“The Powerwall warned us that a storm was coming and it charged up ahead of time,” Thurman explained.

Whisper Valley began offering a Power Resiliency Package in 2020 as an upgrade option for new homebuyers. The package offers a variety of popular home batteries to choose from including the Tesla Powerwall or Sonnen home battery.

“We make it as effortless as possible for our homeowners to employ this battery system,” Thurman said. “Tesla’s Powerwall is just one of the many tools we employ to offer a home with lower bills, peace of mind and reliability.”

Since the geothermal exchange technology inside of EcoSmart homes require less power than traditional HVAC units, a single home battery could be enough to provide power for Wi-Fi, small appliances, the refrigerator and the heating/cooling in the entire home during grid failure events.

Another enormous benefit of installing a home battery? Tax incentives. Recent amendments to the investment tax credit (ITC) includes battery storage technology, enabling homeowners to write off 30 percent of the value of their renewable energy systems including solar, geothermal and home battery storage.

Whisper Valley and EcoSmart provide zero energy capable, futureproof homes that offer unmatched resiliency during extreme weather events. To learn more about the EcoSmart Solution and new homes in Whisper Valley, call 512-710-3799 or visit our Discovery Center at 9400 Petrichor Blvd. Whisper Valley, TX 78653.