(See the original post on Youtube)
Now here’s some Florida Man news we can get behind. Meet Mayor Philip Stoddard of South Miami and his net-zero home with two different Florida ecosystems for a backyard. Phil is a true hero in the environmental community here in Florida and across the world. Join us for a tour of his house, where the tropical hardwood hammock joins the cypress preserve in a solar-powered paradise.
About Mayor Philip Stoddard
Phil has been a professor of biology at Florida International University since 1992. He was elected as Mayor of South Miami in 2010 and is currently serving his fourth term. In 2015 he received a White House appointment to help develop federal policy for sea level rise.
Cypress Preserve, Hardwood Hammock and Solution Hole
Let’s see how he not only talks the talk but walks the walk of green living. We start in his backyard. When he arrived in the house it had just a grassy backyard. Not anymore. He explains:
“What we built here is really two habitats. This side is cypress swamp, this is what you’d find in Big Cypress National Preserve, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a few other swamps in Florida. Over here, this is your coastal solution hole kind of habitat. These things existed naturally in Miami. There’s still some naturally in existence, many have been filled in. And over here you have the hardwood hammock. That’s the coastal hammock here. That’s what the forest of South Florida looks like if it’s allowed to grow back.”
All together, Mayor Stoddard certainly has one of the most biodiverse backyards I have ever seen. He shares his story of how he and his wife Gray created the cypress slough.
Inspiration for the Cypress Slough
“I took Gray out to the Big Cypress Preserve, and I took her to my favorite slough and I said hey, draw this. My wife’s an architect, she drew this beautiful scene.” Mayor Stoddard had waterscape contractors install the water features and then he and his wife Gray did the landscaping.
The cypress swamp provides refuge for humans and animals alike. “The water is cool, it’s crisp, it’s clear, you can put on a snorkel and go look at the fish. It’s absolute paradise.”
No doubt about that. Then he takes us to the grotto. “It’s quiet, peaceful. I leave my phone up at the house so one one can find me.” Magical.
And not only is his backyard beautiful, fascinating, and a haven for wildlife, but it helps protect the house. “When we first built we weren’t sure how well the soil here would perc, so we wanted to make sure we had some extra drainage capacity. It turns out to be fabulous for storm drainage. There’s no such thing as flooding in our yard.”
That’s a key asset for a house in Florida and especially important as our tropical weather grows more extreme. Mayor Stoddard tells us that even during Hurricane Katrina he didn’t have any flooding at the house.
A Net Zero House
Now we head to the house to see my favorite features: the solar panel system and the Tesla Powerwall battery system. Mayor Stoddard tells us that he uses the Powerwall as a whole house generator. No fumes, no noise, and it runs his electric car.
The only fuel he needs everyday is coming at him from the sun. The Tesla Powerwall system he has consists of two batteries stacked one in front of the other. The total storage capacity is 27 kilowatt hours. His Powerwall allows his house to stay powered on even in cases of grid failure.
“It runs AC handily, it runs the fridge, it runs the microwave, it runs the clothes washer. It runs everything.”
Designing the Home Solar Power System
Mayor Stoddard designed his system to be west-facing to reduce the carbon emissions coming from the grid. This strategy works thanks to the utility’s net metering policy.
Net metering allows solar owners to push extra power to the grid when their panels overproduce and pull power from the grid when needed (such as at night). Net metering protects homeowners from inevitable fluctuations in solar energy, guaranteeing a consistent power supply.
Mayor Stoddard’s west-facing array generates the greatest power during the afternoon when the emissions from the grid are the highest. He explains:
“When the utility makes electricity, they make it in two batches. What they call base load, which is the generators running all out, just a level supply. And then when people get home from work, or when the sun starts getting extra hot during the day, we start using more electricity than the base load, and so they turn on a second kind of generator called a peaker. It provides that peak power demand at the end of the day. Everyone is making dinner, turning on appliances, and so on. That’s a less efficient generation system, it produces more carbon output per kilowatt hour.”
Since his array faces west and generates the most power during the afternoon, he is able to push surplus power to the grid during peak use times, reducing the amount of power the inefficient and carbon-spewing peak generators need to produce. In Florida, we don’t have time-of-use billing (meaning energy from the utility costs the same no matter when you use it) so his decision to generate maximum solar power during peak load came from his deep understanding of how the utility creates electricity.
Testing the Tesla Powerwall
Then Mayor Stoddard takes us to the side of the house to show me his FPL meter and see if the Tesla Powerwall really backs up the house as expected. He switches the grid power off. “Did the house stay up? Let’s find out.”
We go inside and indeed, the microwave is on and the fridge is running. “Ice cream stays frozen, beer stays cold. We’re going to survive.”
Solar in South Miami
In 2017, Mayor Stoddard helped lead a groundbreaking initiative to improve the sustainability of construction in South Miami. I ask him how it happened. “We were the first city outside of California to require solar on new residential construction. We put this in place in 2017. The residents supported it, the utility and building industry opposed it. We did it anyway.”
And how has it gone?
“It’s been a success. We don’t do a lot of residential construction in South Miami because we are mostly built out, but people are ultimately happy with it.”
Unsurprisingly, with public understanding of solar lagging behind the state of the technology and economics, some people were hesitant at first. But they have a change of heart when they figure out how it works:
“They discover it wasn’t that expensive, it more than pays for itself. You actually get money back. The builder makes a little money on it. If someone sells their house, the realtor sells it faster and makes a little money on it, everyone benefits.”
You can’t beat that.
Thanks to Philip Stoddard for having us come out to check out his house and everything he is doing to live green. He is truly an inspiring example of green living right here in Florida.
This is Post Two in a series based on our Green Stuff YouTube channel. See Post One: The Top Three Eco Friendly Solutions for Green Living and Post Three: 12 Sleek and Useful Tesla Model 3 Mods.