Residents of the community in Scripps Ranch in San Diego, California, live in a place where all the electricity they need for daily living is generated by the sun. A quick flip of a switch, activates 1,380 Kyocera solar panels at Solterra EcoLuxury Apartments.
“This system is remarkable not only for the power it generates, about 500,000 kilowatt (kWh) each year, but for how it integrates with technology and net metering to provide the potential for zero electricity bills on an annualized basis for Solterra residents,” said Ross Williams, vice president of Home Energy Systems of San Diego which designed and engineered the Solterra solar system.
Solterra is the first new market-rate multifamily community in the nation that utilizes net metering, according to Williams. Rather than feeding to individual apartment meters, electricity is directed to the grid where it is then allocated by the utility company (SDG&E) to individual resident utility accounts based on pre-determined allocation estimates.
“H.G. Fenton Company analyzed the energy usage at its 3,100 apartment units in San Diego and estimated the expected usage of the one- and two-bedroom units at Solterra,” said Williams. “The company then went a step further, providing residents with the tools to monitor and manage their kilowatt usage, giving them the ability to achieve zero electricity bills at the end of each annual period.”
Net metering, which has been implemented in affordable housing over the past three years, had yet to make its way to private multifamily development when H.G. Fenton Company commissioned Home Energy Systems to help create San Diego County’s first apartment community where residents, based on lifestyle, could have the project’s solar system generate all the power they use.
Allocating expected energy usage through net metering was a critical first step in the process, but empowering residents to easily manage their energy usage was the next.
SDGE reports that Solterra is the first project in the nation where residents have instant access to their energy consumption from their smart phones. Nest thermostats let residents control the heating and air conditioning in their unit from anywhere at any time.
“Home Energy Systems understood our objectives were to provide Solterra residents with the ability to minimize and even negate their electricity bills each year,” said Mike Neal, president and CEO of H.G. Fenton Company. “Since Solterra initiated a number of ‘firsts’ in this arena, it was important to us that our solar provider understand our vision and be able to design a system that would meet our needs and that of our customers. Home Energy Systems helped us navigate these firsts successfully and we look forward to monitoring the positive impact of the Solterra system on our residents there.”
The solar system designed by Home Energy Systems for Solterra is comprised of 1,380 Kyocera KD 245 GX-LFB solar panels, with an overall system size of 338.1 kW DC. The system includes 18 Fronius IG Plus V 11.4 Inverters (11.4 kW each) and 10 Fronius IG Plus 10.0 Inverters (10kW).
Williams said the system was designed to generate enough power to meet the daily living needs of residents of the 114 units, providing they track usage and make lifestyle choices to stay within energy allocations for their particular unit size within the property.
“We had a huge challenge on our hands,” Williams said. “We had to fit the 1380 solar panels onto the property and the east, south and west facing roofs did not provide enough space. We had to optimize and utilize every square foot of solar space on the property, ultimately adding an 80 kW ground mount and putting an additional 50 kW on carports. The property has a great south facing hillside which helped us meet the system size requirements.
“Solar on carports is an idea that we used at H.G. Fenton Company’s headquarters,” he said. “It is a great solution with dual functionality, such as adding much-needed shade in the parking area.”
Home Energy Systems and H.G. Fenton Company President Mike Neal have worked together on implementing solar at several existing H.G. Fenton apartment communities to offset common area power usage and help the San Diego real estate company manage costs for its customers. Additionally, Home Energy Systems designed and installed a pilot solar project at H.G. Fenton Company’s Mission Valley offices three years ago that resulted in an annual “zero net energy” usage.
Home Energy Systems