Our Team Wins Project for 8 Zero Energy Ready Homes in Fairmount Heights

The Prince George’s County Department of Housing and Community Development has just announced The Housing Initiatives Partnership (HIP) the winner in a competition to develop eight abandoned home sites. Seven of those sites are in the town of Fairmount Heights; one is in Capitol Heights. HIP, a non-profit affordable housing developer in Prince George’s County, was our partner in the development of the prototype modular Passive House just completed last year in Fairmount Heights. We plan to adapt that prototype to these sites, building upon what we have learned.

What makes the project particularly interesting is that six of the houses will be on contiguous lots, each with prime solar orientation. This presents an ideal situation for a case study hybrid direct current microgrid (HDCM). Much has been written about the potential for residential dc nanogrids and microgrids (including my own post last month). They are expected to transform the enegy grid from a centralized, vulnerable, top-down system to a distributed, transactive energy system within the next ten years, yet no residential HDCM’s have yet beeen built in the real world.  As a HDCM the six homes will essentially become their own power plant, sharing site-generated solar energy among themselves and selling the surplus energy back to the grid. During power outages, they will continue to produce and store power. During peak energy demand periods when rates rise, they will go offline, using their own energy stored in batteries if they need more energy than they are producing on-site.

The key to creating an affordable HDCM is to reduce energy demand to the absolute minimum so that a minimal investment in photovoltaics and batteries is required. Passive House construction techniques and new generation high performance variable refrigerant flow (VRF) heat pumps reduce heating, cooling and hot water energy demand by 85% below standard homes. But they do nothing to reduce the electrical demand of lights, appliances, TV’s, computers, etc. This is where switching the house over from alternating current to direct current comes into play, with the potential to electrical energy demand a further 50% by some estimates. My previous post goes into why this is, so I won’t repeat myself here.

With the help of Dave Geary of Power Analytics, Terry Hill, who sits on both the PHIUS and EMerge Alliance boards, and Stephen Pantano, of CLASP, we will now begin the process of assembling products, expertise and funding for the case study microgrid design and implementation.

Our team for the construction effort is:

Housing Initiatives Partnership, Developer
OMF,  Builder
Pando Alliance, Third Party Testing and Energy Certification
Subcontractors have not been determined at this point.

Construction is anticipated to begin on the first three homes in the summer of 2017.