Utilities: Get used to neighborhoods that use zero energy

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Quick Take: It used to be that new neighborhoods were good news for a utility. They required power, meaning more sales and more profits.

 

But going forward, new neighborhoods may produce as much power as they use, becoming "net zero energy districts." North America's largest such development is at the University of California, Davis, and just celebrated its first anniversary, as described below. Another well-known example is FortZED in Fort Collins, Colorado.

 

With projects like these two acting as proof points, we can expect more and more net zero subdivisions, office parks, industrial parks, campuses, etc. Does your utility have a plan in place for a world where new neighborhoods mean more costs (new wires, poles, transformers, etc.) without more sales? - By Jesse Berst

 

UC Davis West Village: Setting the standard

The University of California, Davis, West Village, the nation’s largest planned zero net energy community, racks up an impressive list of achievements in its initial year of review. The first formal analysis of West Village shows that even in its initial phases, it is well on the way to the ultimate goal of operating as a ZNE community. The report released today from UC Davis, and its partner West Village Community Partnership LLC, outlines major milestones including West Village producing 87 percent of the energy it consumed in a one-year period -- well in advance of the project’s full completion.

“West Village is what a sustainable energy future looks like for California and the rest of the world,” said Ralph Cavanagh, Energy Program co-director for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “Its commitment to comprehensive evaluations like this one is an important part of the good example that the community is setting for the rest of us.” Cavanagh, a renowned authority on energy policy and conservation, is also vice chairman of California Clean Energy Fund and member of the National Commission on Energy Policy.

WVCP engaged energy consulting firm Davis Energy Group to evaluate the project’s energy consumption and production over a 12-month period from March 2012 to February 2013. The report also highlights the many “firsts” West Village can claim including Sacramento City College Davis Center, the first community college center built on a University of California campus.

The prototype University Hub, a new concept aimed at fostering better collaboration among research groups and accelerating the transfer of university inventions from the laboratory to the marketplace, also calls West Village home. The Energy and Transportation Hub located in the community now plays host to several research centers and creates a “living laboratory” to develop energy and transportation technologies.

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