Council,city should plan for ‘net zero’ for Village South

On June 12, the Claremont City Council adopted “Planning Goals and Guiding Principles—Village South Plan,” a document drafted by Sargent Town Planning, a private firm located in Los Angeles.

While this six-page document enumerated 11 “guiding principles” and 29 “goals” for the 17 acres south of the railroad tracks and on Indian Hill Boulevard, it failed to mention the most important issue of the day, namely, planning for buildings that should aggressively address climate change by generating their own renewable energy and storing it on site. 

While sustainable design is mentioned under “Principle 9” it is on the last page of the document. More important, Principle 9 utterly fails to meet the current standards for new residential and commercial buildings.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has called for all new residential buildings to be “net zero” by 2020. This means that all new homes and apartments will have to generate, store and manage their own electric power in less than a year and three months. (It is highly unlikely that construction will begin by this date and even more unlikely that occupancy permits will be granted by January of 2020 for any of the proposed Village South buildings). 

Likewise, the CPUC has set 2030 as the date that new commercial/industrial buildings must also be “net zero,” so why not incorporate these desirable standards into the requirements for all buildings to be built as part of the Village South development in the years ahead?

The good news is that Claremont has a tremendous solar energy resource, and homes and commercial buildings can generate all their electricity. This is due to (a) increased efficiency of modern solar panels (such as those by idealPV and to be built in the Claremont/Pomona area by Claremont Locally Grown Power) and (b) stunning increases in efficiency of buildings with advanced HVAC, lighting and electricity use of all kinds. 

Claremont can be a leader in the drive to address climate change with innovative approaches to building codes and regulations. However, this won’t happen unless local officials, including the planning staff and city council, are aware of the CPUC regulations and the new advances in the generation, storage and management of electric power.

We urge the planning staff and city council to immediately amend the Village South Specific Plan to incorporate the “net zero” standard for all buildings to be constructed as part of that development. We stand ready, able and prepared to assist the city with plans, estimates, projections and innovative solutions to what we consider to be a “top priority” for our community—net zero for all future buildings.

Going forward, net zero should be a foundational planning principle for all new buildings in Claremont.  When conceptualizing how buildings will look, function and operate in our community, we should also be considering how they should generate, store and manage their own power. This will cost the city of Claremont nothing, because by incorporating this standard into the planning process from the beginning, interested developers will be able to incorporate solar generation, storage solutions and battery management systems into their plans and architectural renderings from the very start. Claremont should be a leader in the movement to net zero buildings. It can be done.

Can the 17-acre plot of land on Indian Hill Boulevard produce enough solar power for the businesses and residences that might be built on the location? As a rule of thumb, if a resident of Claremont has 26 solar panels, they will produce, at a minimum, sufficient power for all their electrical uses and demands.

So, using this standard, the Village South development site could potentially accommodate the energy demands of more than 1,623 residents, or far more power than needed or anticipated in any of the plans for all businesses and residents in the proposed Village South development.

One respected solar developer, Robert Espinosa, says that in the 91711 zip code area, a single solar panel with 22-square feet of generation will produce upwards of 548 kilowatt hours of power per year (using a 365 watt panel). This means that if the entire 17-acre plot of land were covered in solar, we could produce almost 18.5 million kilowatt hours of power each year at that site alone. We know, we are not about to cover the entire plot with solar panels, but this makes the point—all buildings on that site can be net zero! 

Setbacks, inner row spacing, stringing and whether or not the panels are roof mounted or canopy mounted will all determine the exact number of panels to deployed in the Village South project. 

Just think, even if we could only produce half the maximum potential of the site, the number of kilowatt hours of electricity that can be produced at what will inevitably be a relatively dense development site will exceed more than nine million kilowatt hours generated.

This can be done.

As Chris Veirs, principal planner for the city of Claremont, said at a community meeting on July 23, “The plans for the Village South Project can include almost anything the citizens of Claremont want those plans to include.”

We want net zero for Claremont buildings.

 

Peter and Patricia Coye, Devon Hartman

Mike Boos, Jim Wilson, Betsy Cline

Abby and Jack Parsons, Mike Verbal

Freeman Allen, Jeff and Sally Barnes

Dan and Lissa Petersen, Jennifer Stark

Ryan Zimmerman, Don Pattison

 

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