1st Net Zero Energy Apartments in LA
When a major national multifamily builder wanted to build Net Zero Energy apartments in downtown Los Angeles, they called Promise Energy to provide solar design, consulting and installation. The team was building a new 250-unit mid-rise project, and they wanted to make 20 “Super Green” units in the building to showcase sustainability, and test the market for high-end green design.
Promise Energy developed and installed not only the first Net Zero Energy tenant apartments in Los Angeles – but actually the first solar apartments in Los Angeles specifically approved by LADWP to provide solar for tenants. Our team worked with DWP to help them understand that providing solar to tenants was important to our clients, and they were working in anticipation of the upcoming CA Energy Code requirement that all residential construction be Zero Net Energy by 2020.
As a result of our efforts, we succeeded in installing solar for the first apartment community in LA with solar powered net-zero energy apartments.
Many buildings in Los Angeles have solar, but prior to this project, no tenants in LA have ever rented apartments which included solar panels where they received a solar credit directly on their utility bills from LADWP.
Single-family homes could purchase or lease solar systems.
And multifamily owners could provide solar for common-area loads (community rooms, site lighting, elevators etc.). The reason for this is A) most owners weren't even trying to provide solar for tenants, and B) even if they wanted to, DWP would only permit systems where the Building Owner was also the DWP Customer.
In our situation, the customers are not the Building Owner, and that wasn't allowed before. In fact, because DWP does not allow Virtual Net Metering, our team actually had to design and install twenty electrically separate PV systems, one for each apartment. This means that each apartment gets 10 solar panels uniquely hardwired directly to their own meter. It took many months of working with DWP, and we had to provide 20 electrically separate systems - one for each unit on a hall as if they were separate homes on a street - in order to make this work.
In fact, they created a new form called the "Tenant Customer Compliance Form" that the owner and each tenant will need to sign, affirming that nothing in the lease or rental agreement conflicts with DWP solar policy and rules.
So Hanover's Olympic & Olive project is the first apartment building in the City of LA specifically designed, built, and permitted to provide solar-power directly to tenants with the intention of achieving true Net Zero Energy.
Working with the energy consultants at Green Dinosaur, the team incorporated a variety of green features into the apartments including:
- Zero Net Energy Solar System
- iPad energy tracking display
- Energy Star appliances
- Nest thermostats
- Occupancy sensors
- LED lighting
- Reclaimed wood flooring
- High performance windows
- Increased Insulation
- Recycled glass countertops
- Dual-Flush toilets
- Ultra low-flow showerheads
These Super-Green units were not only designed to operate very energy efficiently, but also to engage tenants in their energy consumption patterns. The i-Pad displays will allow tenants to see how much energy they're using, and how much energy their solar panels are producing. Each apartment has separate solar panels on the roof directly wired to their meter.
Over the course of each day, as the solar panels produce energy, any excess energy will be sent to the grid, and the meters will spin backwards. At night when the apartments use energy, they will pull from the grid, and their meters will spin forwards, like normal.
In the summer months, the solar panels will produce more energy than in the winter months. But over the course of an entire year, if the apartment uses for example 12,000 kilowatt-hours and the panels produce 12,000 kilowatt-hours, then the apartment will have Produced as much energy as it Consumed - that is Net Zero Energy.
So the true test will be to monitor how much energy the tenants are consuming, relative to how much they produce.
It was an incredibly challenging, and groundbreaking achievement that we hope will lead to more tenant solar in Los Angeles, and improved solar access for renters throughout LA.