(Bloomberg) -- Apartment buildings are an awkward fit for solar power. But a complex in Houston’s Montrose neighborhood may show how to make it work -- and protect tenants from blackouts at the same time.

A Virginia startup, PearlX Infrastructure LLC, is working with SolarEdge Technologies Inc. to outfit the 14 apartments at 2410 Waugh Drive with rooftop solar panels, backed up by batteries. Participating tenants get a break on their electricity bills, saving 5 to 10%, according to PearlX. In addition, the panels and batteries together will act as a miniature “virtual power plant,” selling electricity back to the grid.

And should Texas suffer another massive blackout, like the deadly power failure that struck last winter, the system will provide tenants enough electricity to run essential appliances.

“When the grid goes down, the batteries turn on, the solar will charge the batteries and they’ll be able to keep the lights on,” said Michael Huerta, chief executive officer of PearlX.

The system is expected to come online this quarter. The company has other projects underway in Texas and California to include more than 2,900 tenants.

PearlX signs agreements with property owners, and existing tenants can choose whether to participate. Unlike solar leasing agreements involving individual homeowners, tenants don’t need a particular credit score to participate, Huerta said. His company intends to target middle-income and low-income buildings, which have been largely shut out of the solar market.

“This is all about energy equality, energy access, environmental justice,” he said.


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