A collection of energy, academic, and building organizations are producing all-electric, solar- and battery-powered communities in California with the goal of establishing a roadmap for sustainable and resilient developments.
KB Home is building more than 200 energy-efficient homes in Menifee, California, that along with solar power will have individual battery storage and be connected to a microgrid powered by a shared community battery. The community is being developed as part of a partnership with SunPower, Schneider Electric, the Department of Energy, Southern California Edison (SCE), and the University of California, Irvine.
They are teaming up to provide research, development, and energy implementation for the development, which the developers say are the first microgrid communities in California. They say the development will be power-outage resistant and will offer insight into future sustainable home building.
KB Home, SunPower, and UCI say they are targeting reduced carbon emissions, lower energy costs, and new ways of producing reliable and resilient energy. The DOE awarded a $6.65 million grant to the project, Schneider Electric is providing microgrid design and smart systems, and SCE is helping to transition the community between grid and off-grid electricity.
The residential sector accounts for 21% of all energy use and 20% of the total emissions in the United States, according to the Energy Information Administration. Nearly half of the states have fewer than 20% of all-electric homes, including California, and less than 4% are equipped with solar energy.
The state is also seeing a growth in microgrid and battery storage projects, including the recent acquisition by GridStor of multiple battery storage developments in the Los Angeles area with a potential capacity of 500 megawatts and 2 GW hours. Overall, California’s energy code requires new construction, including homes, to be electric-ready and meet solar energy and battery storage standards.
Another California development has 3D-printed zero-net energy homes designed by Mighty Buildings. That company is looking to transition home development to sustainable construction.
There are 219 of the energy-efficient homes as part of the development in the Durango and Oak Shade communities, which are being built to meet the DOE’s Zero Energy Ready Home standards. The houses are also wired for smart electric vehicle charging. Some will be equipped with bi-directional charging, which can help produce energy back to the home.
The SunPower solar energy systems are designed to achieve net-zero energy. The homes also are getting a 13-kilowatt of battery storage, and electric heat pump water heaters and HVAC systems.
Energy resilience is also a key part of establishing a community with battery storage and microgrids, especially in a state like California which has endured energy emergencies due to heat and wildfires.
The communities are designed to operate during a power outage as part of a self-supporting microgrid as well as the community battery system. Those platforms will also support demand loads from lights, refrigeration, WiFi, and HVAC systems.
Residents will also have the option to enroll in a virtual power plant program where their battery storage, electric vehicle chargers, and other flexible energy loads will support the electric grid. Participants will be eligible for compensation for providing the energy.
As part of the partnership, UCI’s Advanced Power and Energy Program will acquire and archive data from the microgrids to help improve the technology. It will also ensure the microgrid controller meets national standards. UCI will also analyze data from the virtual power plant program to determine its effectiveness in supporting grid infrastructure.