New clean energy communities are coming to California. Leading home builder KB Homes announced Wednesday that it has created the first all-electric, solar and battery-powered microgrid community in the golden state.
KB worked with the US Department of Energy (DOE), SunPower, Scheider Electric and Kia, among others, to test the new energy-efficient homes in several of its new communities.
The new all-electric, solar and battery powered micro-communities are located in Oak Shade and Durango, part of the KB Homes Shadow Mountain master plan in Menifee, California. However, these are not typical energy efficient homes with additional solar panels.
The homes involved in these communities are equipped with backup battery storage, bi-directional electric vehicle charging and, perhaps most importantly, are interconnected, creating a resilient energy grid.
Combined, these technologies form a self-sufficient energy grid capable of powering a neighborhood during a power outage.
KB Home Launches First Microgrid Communities in California Source: Business Wire
How an all-electric, solar and battery powered community works
Each home in the microgrid community will be equipped with:
- SunPower Equinox solar system
- A 13 kWh SunVault battery storage
- Rheem® ProTerra® hybrid electric water heater with heat pump
- Carrier® two-stage high-efficiency heat pump
- Schneider Electric D Energy Center Smart Panel
Individual solar panels harness the sun’s energy and then store it in powerful batteries that act as a backup. In addition, community solar panels are connected to a 2.3 MW battery to supplement the network’s power supply.
In addition, all houses will be equipped with power cables for charging electric vehicles, while some houses will have wall box chargers. Homeowners can enroll in SunPower’s Virtual Power Plan (VPP) program, which allows them to use their EV chargers, battery storage and other energy solutions to automatically balance grid loads when demand is at its peak.
Over 200 all-electric homes will be solar powered, with additional battery storage, while connected to a community microgrid. As a result, according to SunPower, the communities are resilient to power failures and serve as a model for the future of home development.
Microgrids are not a new invention. They have been in use for some time but are mainly used at industrial sites or sprawling commercial buildings. However, since residential energy use accounts for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States, the community built by KB Homes and its partners should serve as a blueprint for building new homes.
In addition, extreme weather is the leading cause of power outages in the United States. According to a recent study by Climate Central, around 83% of reported major outages were due to weather-related events. More importantly, the number of weather-related power outages has increased by about 78% over the past 10 years.
Building grid-resilient communities with solar, battery storage, and all-electric components can significantly reduce the impact.
For example, Babcock Ranch, a “solar-powered community” in Florida 12 miles from Fort Meyers, had water, electricity and internet, while over 5 million others weren’t so lucky after Hurricane Ian ripped through the state.
Last year, the DOE announced $61 million in funding to create ten “connected communities” that can interact with the grid to optimize energy use and reduce carbon emissions.
According to a DOE study, grid-interactive efficient buildings (GEBs), like those introduced by KB Homes in California, could save $18 billion in energy system costs while saving 80 million tons of carbon emissions per year.
On an annual basis, that’s more emissions than 50 medium-sized coal-fired power plants or 17 million vehicles. The first two communities in Alabama and Georgia used about 42% to 44% less energy than the average all-electric home.
These microgrid communities have been proven to work. Now is the time for federal officials to drive and accelerate this transition. In the long run it will cost less.
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