Accelerating the Deployment of Advanced Energy Communities: The Oakland EcoBlock A Zero Net Energy, Low Water Use Retrofit Neighborhood Demonstration Project

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This report describes the design development process and recommendations of a Community-Scale Zero Net Energy Master Plan for a residential block in Oakland, the Oakland EcoBlock. The recommended master plan includes an integrated system of energy efficiency retrofits, a direct current solar/storage/electric vehicle microgrid, alternating/direct current houses, and water efficiency retrofits with rainwater capture. The recommended master plan is projected to be close to zero-net energy (95 percent) for homes, reduce carbon emissions by 65 percent at the block scale (including transportation), and reduce water use 60–70 percent.

The integrated system of energy efficiency and a direct current solar/storage/electric vehicle (EV) charging microgrid is the first of its kind at the residential block scale. This breakthrough because the deep energy efficiency retrofit savings free up enough capacity in the solar supply and storage to enable residents to switch from natural gas to electricity for heating and domestic hot water and to provide EV charging for 33 percent of vehicle miles traveled. The savings in household transportation costs are a game changer because when combined with savings in the electric and water utility bills, the total cash flow savings are projected to fund the capital improvements of the proposed systems. 

This project’s benefits include lower and more predictable utility bills; greater resiliency because the system can operate during outages, and vastly improved indoor air quality by reducing natural gas consumption. The local energy storage reduces peak demand for the utility. California benefits from a model that exceeds the targets for reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions and the reductions in water use address California’s severe water challenges. 

The Oakland EcoBlock is a transformative model for accelerating the rapid deployment of advanced energy communities. 

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