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Largest Planned Zero Net Energy Community in the U.S.

Rendering of planned Zero Net Energy community at University of California, Davis
When complete, UC Davis West Village will be the largest Zero Net Energy community in the U.S.
(cc) UC Davis West Village

The largest planned Zero Net Energy development in the United States is readying for its debut this fall. Under construction on the University of California, Davis campus, UC Davis West Village is combining advanced energy efficient design features with a 4-megawatt, high efficiency SunPower solar power system to achieve the largest planned Zero Net Energy development in the U.S.

UC Davis West Village is the product of an innovative public-private partnership between UC Davis and West Village Community Partnership, LLC, a joint venture led by San Francisco-based Carmel Partners with their partner Urban Villages of Denver.

“I applaud UC Davis, SunPower Corporation, Carmel Partners, and the CEC for their collaboration, dedication, and leadership in developing the largest zero net energy project in the United States,” said Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom. “This is a demonstration of California’s excellence in sustainability, and should set an example for the rest of the nation.”

“West Village is a paradigm shift in creating both a great place to live and a model Zero Net Energy community,” said Nolan Zail, senior vice president for Carmel Partners. “Our guiding principles include environmental sustainability and quality of place. West Village will include housing, recreation and retail options, providing a convenient and eco-friendly lifestyle for students, faculty and staff.

“Using aggressive energy efficiency measures and on-site renewable energy generation to meet community energy demand, this holistic approach offers new solutions in the design and construction of large-scale sustainable communities,” Zail added.

The first phase of the 130-acre project, to be completed this year, will include apartment housing for 2,000 students, an education center for Los Rios Community College, recreation and study facilities, a village square surrounded by neighborhood-serving retail, and 343 single family homes for sale to faculty and staff. Two initial student housing components of the community, The Ramble Apartments and Viridian, will welcome residents September 2011.

UC Davis West Village integrates sustainable design to enable those living in the community to reduce their reliance on automobiles, limit energy consumption and enjoy the benefits of the local climate. Building designs optimize solar orientation, utilize energy efficient appliances and incorporate materials from renewable sources.

A 4-MW solar power system that is manufactured, designed, and installed by SunPower Corp. will generate the equivalent of 100 percent of the community’s electricity demand. The system is comprised of both rooftop solar power installations as well as solar canopies installed in parking areas.

“The guaranteed performance of high efficiency SunPower technology, which generates more electricity per square meter than any other photovoltaic product on the market, will reliably deliver enough clean, emission-free power to ensure West Village achieves its zero net energy goals,” said Jim Pape, president of SunPower’s residential and commercial business group. “We applaud the aspirations of this unique community, and are confident it will serve as a model for similar developments around the world.”

According to estimates provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the SunPower system will produce enough power to avoid more than 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year, equivalent to removing 9,000 cars from California roads over the 25-year life of the system.

In addition to the SunPower system, UC Davis West Village integrates energy conservation elements to reduce energy use that exceeds current building standards by 50 percent. Every apartment building is built with energy-conserving components including solar reflective roof materials, radiant barrier roof sheathing, high efficiency light fixtures, exterior walls with added insulation, and high efficiency air conditioning systems and appliances. On-site water retention is maximized and materials from renewable sources are incorporated. Architectural elements such as roof overhangs and extensive use of sunshades over windows are designed to respond to the specific solar exposure of each building.

Increased efficiencies will be achieved by providing UC Davis West Village residents with tools to enhance control of their own energy use, including programmable energy management systems and SunPower monitoring, which provides information on solar system power generation and electricity usage.

In addition to SunPower, PG&E, Chevron Energy Solutions, UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center and Davis Energy Group have all played a role in the Zero Net Energy planning and feasibility studies on this project. The project also draws on the nationally recognized expertise of UC Davis, particularly from their research centers including the UC Davis Water Efficiency Center, the UC Davis Energy Institute, the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center, the UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center, the UC Davis California Lighting Technology Center and the UC Davis Biogas Energy Project.

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