Oakland EcoBlock looking for interested neighborhoods

Illustration of a mixed-use urban block with sustainability features such as electric car charging stations and solar panels.

Do you and your neighbors want to save money on your energy bills, reduce carbon emissions, and survive the next power outage?

The Oakland EcoBlock project is looking for 10-15 neighboring houses (up to 30 individual housing units) in Oakland to voluntarily participate in an energy-efficient retrofit and solar microgrid research project. Benefits include free energy retrofit and free energy- and water- saving appliances. 

Response due date: December 30, 2019 by 11:59 p.m. PDT 

Summary: The California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE) at the University of California, Berkeley is posting this Opportunity Notice in order to receive interest from residential blocks of 10-15 homeowners in Oakland, California to participate as the site for the Oakland EcoBlock research project.  

Purpose: The California Institute for Energy and Environment (CIEE) at the University of California, Berkeley, working with the City of Oakland and other partners, has received $5M funding through the California Energy Commission to create the Oakland EcoBlock: a neighborhood block retrofit of energy and water efficiency, with a shared “microgrid” of solar electricity, storage, and Electric Vehicle charging. The project goal is a path towards rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions through residential retrofits and develop a resilient electric microgrid that provides power during outages. The objective is to build a successful demonstration EcoBlock in the next four years (Oct 2019-May 2023) and create a blueprint for replicating EcoBlocks in Oakland and cities around the world. 

Instead of house-by-house retrofits, our goal is to show the benefits of using economies-of-scale to conduct energy and water efficiency retrofits in a neighborhood of houses to reduce carbon emissions and develop a standalone microgrid of electrical generation and storage. The EcoBlock design includes advanced efficiency measures, a solar-powered microgrid, and shared Electric Vehicle charging.  

The cost of the installation of the energy upgrades are covered by the Project. The Project will support the participating neighbors to form a governing organization, like a Co-op or Trust, that (at the end of the Project) will own and take responsibility for the ongoing operation, maintenance and insurance of the shared microgrid. The cost of this operation, maintenance, and insurance will be covered collectively by the Co-op or Trust based on ability to pay. The savings from gas, electric and water bills is expected to exceed this service cost. 

Scope of the Project:

  • Energy efficiency retrofits (floor and attic insulation, weather sealing (doors/windows), Heat Recovery Ventilator, exhaust fans replaced with ones with ECM motors (motors that use electronic controls to vary its speed), gas-fueled space and water heating and clothes drying appliances replaced with efficient electrical equipment/appliances, smart thermostat, LED upgrades, ceiling fans).
  • Water efficiency retrofits: laundry-to-landscape greywater system, drought tolerant planting, water-efficient dishwasher and clothes washer replacement, water-efficient fixture replacement (toilets, lavatories, faucets).
  • Solar electric (electricity-generating) Photovoltaic (PV) panels for the roof, sized to meet 100% of electrical demand.
  • Neighborhood-shared energy storage using “flywheel” or battery storage. (Imagine a flywheel as a large spinning weight, located in the ground, that can absorb and produce energy, and is safer than conventional chemical battery storage).
  • Shared Electrical Vehicle charging stations (up to six).
  • DC (direct current) “microgrid” across multiple residential buildings; each house has solar electric generation, and a shared DC infrastructure connects to the flywheel or battery energy storage and the Electric Vehicle charging stations.
  • Legal, regulatory, and financial innovation to facilitate these and future projects. 

Eligibility: An eligible neighborhood block would: 

  • Show enthusiasm for co-creating the first EcoBlock and collaborating in this project
  • Show capability of co-creating a Co-op with your neighbors for ongoing operation after the project end
  • Have some unshaded roof area for solar panels on each house.
  • Have an average annual energy bill per household of at least ~$500 per year (gas and electric).
  • Be willing to dedicate 3-6 curbside parking spaces with EV charging parking.
  • Consist of ten (10) or more interested homeowners of single or small multi-family residences that are next to each other (contiguous) (maximum 30 housing units total) in the City of Oakland, CA.

Please note that this is not a competitive solicitation. The selection of a block for this project will be at the discretion of CIEE, based on numerous factors to assure the best fit for this research effort. Blocks with interested households who have a higher energy burden (percent of a person’s income spent on energy) will have priority. This Opportunity seeks to accelerate the process of matching eligible blocks with strong community interest against an independent set of locational, technical, and other criteria. If and when we identify a potential match, our team will contact the block representative for a follow-up discussion.