Naturally, it’s in California, the projected all-electric community with more than 200 solar powered homes to be constructed by a coalition of strategy, research, technology, and energy providers. This is in response to a report that residential energy use accounts for roughly 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S., contributing to more severe and frequent weather events—between 2013 and 2020, blackouts caused by events such as snowstorms, wildfires, and hurricanes have tripled in duration, claims the latest data from the U.S. EIA (Energy Information Admin.).
SunPower Corp., UCI (University of Calif., Irvine), Schneider Electric, and SCE (Southern California Edison) banded together with KB Home for the homebuilder’s newly launched Energy-Smart Connected Communities Oak Shade and Durango within its popular Shadow Mountain master plan in Menifee, California.
The state-of-the-art, all electric homes will be solar powered, equipped with individual battery storage, and connected to a microgrid powered by a large, shared community battery. These power-outage resistant communities are the first of their kind in the state and are designed to offer a blueprint for sustainable and resilient new home development of the future.
KB Home, SunPower, and UCI joined to reimagine what a new home community could look like if built to reduce carbon emissions, cut energy costs, and provide new ways of producing reliable and resilient energy. With a $6.65 million DOE (Dept. of Energy) grant, microgrid design and engineering support from Schneider Electric, and strong collaboration with SCE to ensure a smooth transition between grid and off-grid electricity, these innovative homes are now available to the public.
Built for Sustainability
All 219 of the homes in the new Durango and Oak Shade communities will be built to meet the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home criteria, which include ENERGY STAR, WaterSense, and Indoor airPLUS. These additional features will help homeowners reduce average energy use by up to 40%.
Each home comes with a SunPower Equinox solar system designed to achieve net-zero energy, a 13kWh SunVault Storage battery, high efficiency appliances, flexible loads such as electric heat pump water heaters and HVAC systems, and other smart technologies like Schneider Electric’s Square D Energy Center and Connected Wiring Devices.
Additionally, these new KB homes will offer a set of benefits compared to homes without these features, including:
- Reduced Energy Usage: Innovative technology, coupled with advanced home design and certifications, enable homeowners to decrease energy usage by 40%, while potentially lowering energy costs.
- Essential Protection: Homeowners can switch to battery energy use in case of an outage and disconnect from the grid to help maintain the home’s essential energy functions continue to operate for a certain period of time.
- EV Charger Ready: All homes will be wired to be smart charger ready. Additionally, some homes in the communities will be testing bidirectional EV (electric vehicle) chargers, which, during a power outage, enables the EV to be another source of energy.
- Convenient Realtime Monitoring: Homeowners will enjoy the convenience and advantage of app-based monitoring and control to easily customize and track their energy usage and storage.
- Less Environmental Impact: These home and community features in combination can help lower homebuyers’ carbon footprint and conserve precious natural resources.
These communities offer a new concept for how individual homes interact with the electrical grid. Every home, while maintaining its regular service with local utility Southern California Edison, is designed to operate during an outage as part of a self-supporting microgrid, drawing energy from its own SunVault storage system as well as a large community battery. Together, they are designed to support critical loads such as lights, refrigeration, and WiFi as well as additional high-capacity loads like HVAC and domestic hot water. When the sun is shining, individual and community batteries can be continually recharged using excess solar generation until the grid connection returns.
Additional energy services offered by SunPower allow residents to enroll in a VPP (virtual power plant) program through which their battery storage, EV chargers, and other flexible loads will automatically dispatch to support the electric grid. Enrolled homeowners will be eligible for compensation for their participation in the program. UCI will also simulate the connected microgrids, analyze data from the VPP program, and collaborate with SCE to determine its effectiveness in supporting grid infrastructure.
Coalition for the Future
The project encompasses a unique, multi-disciplinary partnership comprised of several organizations:
- KB Home one of the largest and most recognized homebuilders in the U.S., is responsible for the design and construction of the energy-smart connected new home communities.
- SunPower Corp. conceptualized the project and is the project lead. It will oversee the project partners, provide energy services and technology, and ensure the home energy systems support the microgrid operations. It will also provide solar panels, battery storage and EV charging options for each home.
- The APEP (advanced power and energy program) at the UCI will acquire and archive data from microgrid events and conduct research to enhance the technologies deployed in similar applications in the future. It will ensure that the microgrid controller meets the national standards that evolved from prior research conducted by APEP for the DOE using the UCI Microgrid as a platform for both the development and demonstration.
- Schneider Electric will be providing home electrical technology, including the smart load panel called the Square D Energy Center and Connected Wiring Devices that integrate and control the distributed energy resources. Additionally, Schneider Electric will design and engineer the community microgrid.
- Southern California Edison is the utility partner providing new power service to the community, managing the grid, assisting in microgrid engineering, ensuring local utility equipment safely and reliably supports microgrid operations and providing cybersecurity review.
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