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May 192011

By Brett Kessler
Green Right Now

Developers in California previewed today what they say will be the largest “Zero Net Energy development of its kind in the U.S.,” showing off the first phase of a 130-acre community at the University of California at Davis.

The project will be home to apartments for more than 2,000 students, an education center, recreation and study facilities, as well as 343 homes to be sold to faculty and staff, and a scenic village square. A complex solar energy system created by SunPower, Inc., will supply all of the community’s electricity, allowing West Village to meet its zero-impact goal.

“This is a demonstration of California’s excellence in sustainability, and should set an example for the rest of the nation,” said Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, who toured the complex, called West Village. He was accompanied by UC Davis Chancellor Linda P. B. Katehi, Jim Pape, president of SunPower, and Nolan Zail, vice president of lead developer Carmel Partners.

When the project is completed, photovoltaic rooftop panels are expected to generate over four megawatts of electricity – enough, the EPA estimates, to offset more than 2,000 annual tons of carbon dioxide emissions. West Village also will utilize other energy conservation components, such as solar reflective roof materials, radiant barrier roof sheathing, added wall insulation, high efficiency air conditioning and lights, and on-site water retention. The developers hope West Village will serve as a “living learning laboratory,” providing residents with meters and other monitoring systems to track their own energy use and to encourage reduced consumption.

The new community aims to prove that sustainability does not come at the cost of comfort and convenience.

“West Village is a paradigm shift in creating both a great place to live and a model Zero Net Energy community,” said Nolan Zail in a statement. “Our guiding principles include environmental sustainability and quality  of place. West Village will include housing, recreation and retail  options, providing a convenient and eco-friendly lifestyle for students,  faculty and staff.”

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