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KB Home Offers Energy Efficient, Connected Homes In California

KB Home is building an energy efficient, connected community southeast of Los Angeles that will feature its own microgrid.

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Durango at Shadow Mountain is a new planned community 90 miles southeast of Los Angeles. That’s not news. New communities in the Golden State are popping up everywhere. What makes this one different is that all 78 homes are designed to be energy efficient and resilient. Every rooftop has 16 solar panels. Every garage features an energy storage battery, an electric car charger and a heat pump water heater. The homes are heated and cooled by a heat pump. The kitchens all feature inductive stoves and high efficiency appliances. Add it all up and the developer, KB Home, says these houses should use 40% less electricity than a conventional new home.

That’s good news, but it’s not the main story here. What is noteworthy is that all the new houses from KB Home will be connected to form a microgrid that can operate independently of California’s creaky utility grid. According to Bloomberg Green (email), another 141 homes being built by KB Home in an adjacent subdivision called Oak Shade at Shadow Mountain will feature a second microgrid. The two developments will share a 2.3 megawatt-hour “community battery” to provide additional power in the event of an outage.

SunPower is supplying both the solar panels and batteries for each house and providing the software to manage the microgrids to automatically maximize energy production and reduce costs. When a Durango resident commutes to work, for example, SunPower can turn down their thermostat and put appliances in economy mode. When that same resident gets home and utility rates spike, the house can draw on the solar electricity stored in its battery, or sell that power back to the grid. A smart electrical panel also lets homeowners choose which appliances to power during a blackout.

There’s more. Ten of the new KB Home dwellings will have vehicle-to-home capability thanks to bi-directional EV chargers installed in their garages. Kia is offering leases on an EV6 to those residents. The batteries in those cars can supplement the storage battery in the garage and supply electricity to the home of several days if the owner is judicious in the use of appliances during an outage.

“In California, when it’s really hot and there are fires, you’re threatened with the power turning off,” Dan Bridleman, senior vice president for sustainability, technology, and strategic sourcing at KB Home tells Bloomberg Green. “We felt like there was probably an affordable way to build resiliency, not only at the house level but also into the community.”

The Takeaway

The model home in Durango at Shadow Mountain has 2,906 square feet of living space and costs $577,990. Smaller, less expensive homes are available. If you think that’s a lot of money, you haven’t been following the real estate market lately. Do people need a nearly 3000 square foot home? Right now in California, the answer apparently is yes.

Let’s put aside such concerns and concentrate on the fact that this development is the future of single family housing in America. Just as we celebrate every new electric car sold in America, so should we celebrate more energy efficient homes and the advent of more microgrids. We salute KB Home, for making the future of home ownership available to home buyers today.

Babcock Ranch near Fort Myers in Florida was one of the first resilient communities with its own microgrid. It’s good to see the idea of efficient, resilient communities spreading to other parts of the country.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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