It’s a bright idea for a new neighborhood: What if the power never went out?
At the latest KB Home community in Menifee, they’re putting a new twist on energy efficiency.
Each home here is equipped with solar to collect power from the sun and store it in a battery located in the home’s garage.
Additionally, the entire group of homes (200+ when complete) have a community backup battery in the neighborhood that also kicks in if the grid goes out.
“When the power’s out, all of your refrigerator, lights, all of those things work. It gives you the opportunity to still function almost like nothing was wrong even when you may have a grid down 12 to 15 hours because of an emergency,” explained Scott Hansen of KB Home.
Durango at Shadow Mountain is among the first so-called microgrid communities in California.
“When we use the term microgrid, all we’re saying that that portion that serves that community can be separated from the main grid during times when the main grid goes down,” said Erik Takayesu of Southern California Edison.
“Excess energy from the solar system, that’s charging the battery, once the battery is fully charged, excess energy from the solar system will actually go out to the community battery and charge the community battery so that both batteries can be full and ready for a grid outage,” said Matt Brost of SunPower, the company providing the solar panels and batteries for the community near Temecula in Southern California.
The homes come with solar, an EV charger, high tech water heater, special insulation in the attic and even an app that lets you monitor real time energy usage.
I got to see how the home would react in the event of a power outage. When grid power is turned off, you can see the lights in the home flicker for a second. That’s about it. Next, the backup battery inside the garage kicked into action and nearly everything was up and running as usual.
A smart fuse box prioritizes what gets energy and what doesn’t during an outage.
There is one big exception to all of this: air conditioning. It draws too much current, so it won’t operate during a power outage. Other exclusions in the demo home we saw include the EV charger, dryer, water heater and electric cooktop.
These all-electric homes use up to 40 percent less energy than similar homes. The partners involved, including the U.S. Department of Energy, SunPower, the University of California, Irvine, Southern California Edison and Kia, are eager to learn from the project in hopes of applying the concept to more neighborhoods in the future.
“It’s really going to help customers optimize their energy use, save money and become more reliable and resilient,” Takayesu added.