EPIC Approach to Deploying Advanced Energy Communities: Part II - CivicWell

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EPIC Approach to Deploying Advanced Energy Communities: Part II

Climate Change & Energy


February 27, 2018


In 2016, the California Energy Commission awarded 13 projects through the EPIC Challenge: Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities solicitation. The purpose of this solicitation was to fund a competition that would challenge project teams comprised of building developers, local governments, technology developers, researchers, utilities, and other project partners to spend 18 months developing innovative and replicable plans for accelerating the deployment of Advanced Energy Communities. For many of the participants, those 18 months have either elapsed or are close.

With the Phase II application approaching, the remaining projects are gearing up to present their findings and put together their implementation plans. As a follow-up to the previous blog post on the AEC recipients in late 2016, we have collected updates on the projects, as well as new links to project websites where available.

Updates: Advanced Energy Communities Projects

Santa Monica Advanced Energy District
The City of Santa Monica is designing an Advanced Energy District with a multiuser microgrid to be anchored at the City Yards, an old landfill site which is where most of the city’s municipal buildings and fleets are housed. The microgrid will integrate a suite of local renewable energy sources, energy storage, and controllable loads into a single system that will later be scaled to interconnect adjacent, public and private properties inclusive of the Metro Maintenance Facility.

The project team is exploring what role the city can play in delivering and wheeling power between customers, and what special utility tariffs and financing can help incentivize a system that shares the value of distributed energy resources equitably. The project team will then develop a financial and ownership model for constructing and operating the multiuser microgrid that achieves a net zero, or near net zero energy district for the customers. A case study and “tool kit” of outreach materials is also being developed to share with stakeholders and other local governments.

Energize Fresno
Launched with $1.5M in grant funding from the California Energy Commission’s Electric Program Investment Charge (EPIC) Program, the Energize Fresno team has been working to design a roadmap for Fresno to become an Advanced Energy Community. Over the past year and a half, the project team has identified projects that deliver significant resource savings and attract more investment into the community, and developed a tool that streamlines the project-funding matching process to accelerate action and raise the visibility of energy, water, and transportation investment opportunities in the city.

The Energize Fresno portfolio includes 13 commercial buildings, two activity centers, two programmatic upgrades to existing LGP programs, and an electric vehicle charging network of 20 Direct Current Fast Chargers and five autonomous solar-powered chargers. The project portfolio would provide 9.4 million kWh in annual electricity savings, 17.2 million kWh of on-site generation, 7,340 MT CO2e in annual greenhouse gas reductions, and over $4.6 million in annual energy cost savings within the project area.

Berkeley Energy Assurance Transformation (BEAT) Project
The City of Berkeley is designing a clean energy microgrid, powered by solar, in downtown Berkeley to provide power to key city facilities for daily use as well as when power is disrupted. The Berkeley Energy Assurance Transformation (BEAT) microgrid is envisioned to be anchored at the soon-to-be rebuilt Center Street Garage and will connect to neighboring key buildings such as City Hall, the Public Safety Building, and the Civic Center Annex building – all which provide critical services to the community.

The design will include solar, battery energy storage, and interconnected smart demand response technologies. In addition, the BEAT project will create innovative business and financial models, procurement plans, technology and energy load plans, and a regulatory analysis of barriers and solutions for dense urban areas looking to transform existing structures into hubs for local clean energy.

Peninsula Advanced Energy Community (PAEC)
The PAEC initiative is designed to overcome common AEC barriers and establish a replicable model that can be used by other communities across California and beyond. The results of PAEC will inform future action by policymakers, municipalities, governmental agencies, utility executives, and other key stakeholders.

Key AEC components in the PAEC initiative:

  • Abundant solar electricity, energy storage, and other distributed energy resources (DER)
  • Low or zero net energy buildings
  • Solar Emergency Microgrids for power management and support of critical facilities during outages
  • Charging infrastructure to support the rapid growth of electric vehicles (EVs)

It is anticipated that, based on 25 megawatts (MW) of peak demand reduction, the initiative will save energy consumers over $25 million, generate over $100 million in regional economic output, create $35 million in local wages, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 800 million pounds over 20 years.

Huntington Beach Advanced Energy Community Blueprint
Huntington Beach Advanced Energy Community Blueprint project is designing an integrated energy system to transform the disadvantaged Huntington Beach community of Oak View, into an advanced energy community (AEC). Together with ComUnidad, the school district, and local businesses, the project team identified the community’s energy needs and potential properties for inclusion in the AEC.

With the development of two new tools: the Smart Community Microgrid Energy Management Model and the AEC Design and Planning Tool, the team simulated and evaluated impact and performance characteristics of a suite of clean energy technologies to determine the most optimal measures and technologies for the Oak View AEC. The team is currently exploring different innovative financing models and working with the city of Huntington Beach to develop a streamlined permitting plan. Additionally, the project team is working with a local community college to develop a workforce development program that will recruit residents of Oak View to help install solar PV in the community.

Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities
In partnership with the County of Los Angeles, the Southern California Regional Energy Network (SoCalREN), The Energy Coalition, Day One and LACI, the UCLA team has developed an innovative and replicable AEC design around existing buildings in disadvantaged communities .

The UCLA team’s AEC design addresses structural and programmatic barriers to clean energy technology adoption in disadvantaged communities, including: high levels of renters, limited capital, lack of wide-scale meter-level data, insufficient community outreach, inadequate business and financing strategies.

The AEC design provides locally generated GHG-free electricity from community solar and storage to offset electricity consumption of participants who “opt in” to the AEC through an enrollment system. Participants also benefit from various in-home upgrades (energy efficiency retrofits, demand response and energy management tools) at no upfront cost.

The Project Team created a pilot design for the LA County unincorporated areas of Avocado Heights and Bassett encompassing approximately 28,000 residents. The community solar system is ~5.9 MW, designed to serve approximately 410 residences, 19 multifamily properties and 7 schools.

Zero Net Energy Farms
This project is developing and piloting a Project Management Application tool for farms and agricultural communities. Included in this tool is information gathered from a trade study of available equipment vendors that will compare cost effectiveness and reliability of technologies for solar, wind, anaerobic digestion, and gasification. A unique feature about this project is that it integrates Net Energy Metering Aggregation (NEMA), a program through the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) that enables agricultural communities to aggregate meters in a continuous property, with various other strategies to maximize the effectiveness of the Project Management Application.

The project’s draft Master Community Design has been completed, which identifies resources available at the selected farm and advanced energy technologies (for energy generation, storage, etc.) that can help make the site a Zero Net Energy Farm, which includes solar, wind, anaerobic digestion, gasification, vehicle to grid (V2G) systems, energy storage with smart batteries, and smart street lamps. This Master Community Design describes the associated planning, permitting, and financing mechanisms that can be used to build out the site, which are supported by the Project Management Application (PMA) using a Geographic Information System (GIS). The PMA enables one to estimate the cost and energy generation of various advanced energy technologies for a given farm in California.

Developing an Advanced Energy Master Plan for the Encanto Neighborhood in San Diego
This project will develop a prototype plan called the Encanto Social-Economic Education Development (EnSEED), designed to transform an existing disadvantaged community in Southeastern San Diego into a community of near-zero net energy (ZNE) buildings. This project will include close engagement with the local community, and development of a final system design, financing plan, and plan to obtain all required government review and approvals. A permitting plan will be developed to document the necessary permit processes and prepare permit applications to the point deemed complete by the responsible permitting agency. Upon completion of the permit review process, Groundwork will initiate the environmental review process with the City of San Diego. This process will determine the level of anticipated impact and type of environmental document needed.

The project team has presented a preliminary proposal to the San Diego Unified School District management and got approval for their participation in the program, as well as identified potential sites for DER (PV and Fuel Cell) near Chollas Eco Village.

The Oakland EcoBlock
This project is developing a model for a residential block-scale retrofit development of an integrated energy system combining energy efficiency, renewable generation, and water conservation technologies, called the EcoBlock. The development of the energy and water system components of the model serves as a case study to analyze different owner-operator, and financing structures may be applicable to a residential community and can help transform the EcoBlock model from a one-off demonstration to a sustainable and replicable model for the entire state. The City of Oakland will also use the EcoBlock model to develop new planning and permitting processes that can lower the time and cost of similar block-scale developments throughout the city.

In 2017, the project team completed an EcoBlock design that includes 27 houses and 2 multi-family buildings in Oakland, CA. The project team completed their analysis on the existing energy and water infrastructure of the block, and developed scenarios for potential energy generation and water conservation systems. The energy system plan combines efficiency upgrades at the building-scale with a flywheel storage system to create a AC/DC microgrid. The water conservation plan proposes different methods to utilize, recycle, and conserve potable, sewer, storm and rain water.

In 2018, the project team will synthesize their research results and add an analysis on different owner-operator and finance models that may be applied to the EcoBlock, as well as provide the City of Oakland with recommendations on ways to streamline their planning and permitting processes for block-scale developments.

Charge Bliss Advanced Renewable Energy Community
This project demonstrates how the City of Carson’s disadvantaged downtown community worked with Charge Bliss and its team to plan and design an advanced energy community that included an extensive electric vehicle charging network, high penetrations of photovoltaic (PV) generation, and stationary battery storage in their municipal parks and city-owned facilities. The project team is using transportation and utility data to best place EV charging stations in high utilization areas and how the increased energy demand will be balanced with solar and storage to minimize grid impacts.

The team is conducting planning, permitting, financial modeling, and engineering design for over three megawatts of PVs and 40+ charging stations for a disadvantaged public sector and commercial area in the City of Carson. Charge Bliss is collaborating with two local government entities, South Bay Cities Council of Governments, and Southern California Association of Governments, as well as a collection of universities and private companies on this effort.

Lancaster Advanced Energy Community (AEC) Project
In collaboration with the City of Lancaster and Lancaster Choice Energy (LCE), this project will plan and permit a ZNE microgrid connected to a medium-density affordable housing project that enables the cost-effective deployment of advanced technologies. The microgrid design approach minimizes the impact of ZNE buildings and increasing renewables on the grid, increases DER design flexibility, and enables local control of energy management through LCE, all while exploiting the plummeting cost of islanding capability to provide valuable resiliency benefits to the community.

The project team is also developing a community DER valuation framework that assesses the value of DERs on an aggregated and integrated network basis from multiple stakeholder perspectives by combining various value streams and evaluating evolving revenue and market participation opportunities.

This project is in the final stretches of creating a scalable suite of tools, policies, and programs to enable communities to accelerate their progress towards ZNE. The team is currently in talks with potential technology vendors, and plans to have finalized partnerships and signed agreements with initial customers in the next few months. The project team has also evaluated the various use cases for the microgrid planned in connection with the Avenue I affordable housing project. Once the tract map is approved, they will recommend microgrid component sizing, technical schematics, and controls that will be incorporated into the architectural and construction documentation.

Richmond Advanced Energy Community Project
The City of Richmond Advanced Energy Community project will facilitate adoption of a comprehensive integrated policy, planning, program, and financing framework to transform the City of Richmond into a Zero Net Energy Community, using forward-looking policies that integrate energy, land use, and transportation planning, and progressive municipal financing mechanisms. As part of the project, ZNE Alliance will also facilitate the planning and permitting of approximately 20 abandoned homes to be converted into affordable ZNE homes available to working families via the First-time Home Buyers’ Program. This redevelopment project will be accomplished by a Social Impact Bond administered by the Richmond City Council.

As of December 2017, RCF has completed the permitting, and planning of three homes, with another 12 homes in the queue in 2018 with a total of 100 homes planned over 5 years. The developer responsible for two of the homes is also planning to replicate the ZNE design in 10 more homes in Oakland, demonstrating the organic scalability of this work. The Social Impact Bond model can be a viable strategy to address particular social needs in cities and used as a replicable model for future communities. The ZNE Community Toolkit will present and highlight SIBs to combat neighborhood blight and advance ZBE community development.