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With a quick ‘flip of a switch,” Home Energy Systems is activating the 1,380 Kyocera solar panels at Solterra, giving residents of the H.G. Fenton Company eco-luxury apartment community in Scripps Ranch the first opportunity to live in a place where all the electricity they need for daily living is generated by the sun.
“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 virtual 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 virtual 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 was able to estimate the typical usage expected 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.”
Virtual 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 virtual net metering was a critical first step in the process, but empowering residents to easily manage their energy usage was the next.
In-home displays let Solterra residents monitor their usage and make lifestyle adjustments, such as when to do laundry or adjust heat and air, as needed to stay within their allocation. Nest thermostats give residents the ability to control the temperature in their unit from anywhere at any time. SDGE reports that Solterra is the first project in the nation where residents have instant access to their energy consumption from their smart phones.
“Home Energy Systems understood our objectives with Solterra, which was to provide our 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 have the ability to understand our vision and design a system that would meet our needs and that of our customer’s. 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 residents track usage and make small lifestyle adjustments to stay within energy allocations for their particular unit size and location within the property.
“We had a huge challenge on our hands. And that was how to fit the 1380 solar panels onto the property. The east, south and west facing roofs simply did not provide enough space. We needed to optimize and utilize literally every square foot of solar space on the property. We decided to add an 80 kW ground mount and put an additional 50 kW on carports. The property has a great south facing hillside which really enabled us to meet the system size requirements. Solar on carports is an idea that we used at HG Fenton’s headquarters as well and is great because of the double functionality. Our clients really love them.”
Home Energy Systems and H.G. Fenton Company President Mike Neal have worked together on other private and company requirements, including installing solar at several other existing Fenton apartment communities in San Diego. The photovoltaic panels atop roofs, the hillside and on carports will offset much of common area power usage, helping the San Diego real estate company manage costs for its customers.
The company, headquartered in Mission Valley, has engaged its employees in several eco-responsible initiatives. Three years ago, the firm implemented a pilot solar project at its corporate offices that has created a “zero net energy” cost for HG Fenton in their building. Home Energy Systems was proud to design and install that system as well.
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