*a Tribune Publishing article.
May 11—A small housing development planned near downtown Granite Falls will be the first in Caldwell County incorporating renewable energy sources intended to virtually wipe out homeowners' electric bills.
The Duke Street Cottages, on Duke Street across from Granite Falls Brewing, is intended to be a "net zero energy" project, Rob Howard of Howard Building Science Inc. told the Caldwell County Economic Development Commission's board of directors on Tuesday.
Net zero energy means the total energy the 11 houses in the 1-acre development use in a year will be about equal to the amount of renewable energy generated on-site.
The neighborhood will have 212 solar panels, and energy will be stored in batteries, Howard said.
"The idea is if the grid goes down due to a storm or a squirrel, these homes will still have power," he said.
Howard said he has worked on net zero energy projects before, starting in 2005, when he built the first net zero house in North Carolina for Habitat for Humanity.
The development is planned as a "pocket neighborhood," which means they will have large front porches facing a shared green space down the middle, and a property owners association will manage landscaping and exterior maintenance, Howard said.
The neighborhood also will include charging stations for electric cars.
Howard said he intends to target middle-class buyers with annual incomes of $48,000 to $72,000 a year. The houses will cost from around $150,000 for a 2-bedroom unit of about 800 square feet to around $235,000 for a larger 3-bedroom.
Work on the development should begin next month, but Howard said he intends to list the houses for pre-sale as soon as next week.
Howard, a Caldwell County native who grew up in Hudson and lives in Granite Falls, said he hopes do work on more housing projects like this in Caldwell County.
"I see this as the first of many. This is what I want to do in the next phase of my career," he said.
Rob Howard is the President of Howard Building Science.