Courtesy KB Home

Partnering with several energy leaders, KB Home launched its first all-electric, solar-, and battery-powered, microgrid communities within its Shadow Mountain master plan in Menifee, California.

The builder’s Oak Shade and Durango communities offer a new vision for how individual homes interact with the electrical grid. Every home, while maintaining its regular service with local utility Southern California Edison (SCE), is designed to operate during an outage as part of a self-supporting microgrid, drawing energy from its own energy storage system as well as a large community battery.

“In our pursuit of building better homes, better communities, and a better future, we believe that our all-electric, solar-, and battery-powered homes at Oak Shade and Durango in Menifee have the potential to deliver significant energy savings,” says Jeffrey Mezger, KB Home’s chairman, president, and CEO. “Working with industry and academic leaders, we plan to explore how these energy-smart connected communities can help protect the environment and turn our homes into their own power centers designed to deliver resiliency while also reducing the overall cost of long-term homeownership.”

The project encompasses a unique, multidisciplinary partnership comprised of several organizations, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), SCE, the Advanced Power and Energy Program at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), SunPower Corp., Schneider Electric, and Kia.

Courtesy KB Home

All 219 of the homes in Durango and Oak Shade will be built to meet the DOE's Zero Energy Ready Home criteria, which include Energy Star, WaterSense, and Indoor airPLUS. They will come equipped with a SunPower Equinox solar system designed to achieve net-zero energy, a 13-kilowatt SunVault storage battery, high-efficiency appliances, flexible loads such as electric heat pump water heaters and HVAC systems, and other smart technologies like Schneider Electric’s Square D Energy Center.

The homes will also be pre-wired to charge electric vehicles (EVs). Additionally, some homes in the communities will be testing bidirectional EV chargers, which, during a power outage, enables the EV to be another source of energy.

Additional energy services offered by SunPower allow residents to enroll in a Virtual Power Plant (VPP) program through which their battery storage, EV chargers, and other flexible loads can automatically dispatch to support the electric grid. Enrolled homeowners may be eligible for compensation for their participation in the program. UCI will also simulate the connected microgrids, analyze data from the VPP program, and collaborate with SCE to determine its effectiveness in supporting grid infrastructure.

“SunPower and KB Home have a long-standing history of leading the new-home industry with energy innovation and sustainability,” says Matt Brost, vice president of sales, new homes, at SunPower. “With this project, we are taking a large leap toward creating communities from the ground up that are designed to produce sustainable and affordable energy and resiliency to the impacts of climate change on our grid. We are thrilled to leverage our learnings from this project to influence continued innovation in home building.”

The project partners will conduct research throughout and beyond the development cycle to measure the energy efficiency of each community in comparison with traditional residential solar communities. According to KB Home, they will explore how to build all-electric homes that will more effectively meet the requirements of future energy codes and how an energy-smart community, storage batteries, and bidirectional EV chargers can work together to maximize efficiency and help keep the power on for a certain period of time at a community level.