There is no shortage of hype and futuristic rhetoric when it comes to the innovation that is taking place these days in the field of energy technology. Occasionally, the future touches down in one place or another.


Three years after its groundbreaking, a pioneering new community on the campus of the University of California, Davis, has almost reached its goal of zero-net energy (ZNE). 


In November, UC Davis West Village released its first annual report, which highlights some impressive milestones in the community’s quest to become a model of energy planning and consumption. Located on the UC Davis campus, the village is a new neighborhood intended for approximately 3,000 students and 500 staff and faculty members. 


The project was launched in 2009 with some ambitious goals. Foremost among them was ZNE. This goal allowed the developers to bill the project as the largest planned ZNE community in the United States.


Furthermore, the developers set out to achieve ZNE at no higher cost to the developer or the consumer. So-called “deep energy-efficiency measures” would be adopted, and multiple renewable resources would be developed on-site to support these goals. The village would also be used as a living laboratory for further energy innovation.


According to the UC Davis West Village Energy Initiative Annual Report 2012–2013, most of the above goals have been reached. Although the project is not yet fully built out or occupied, nearly 2,000 students reside in 663 apartments. Most important, the village has almost achieved ZNE, with on-site renewable sources generating 87 percent of the energy consumed.


Innovation breeds more innovation, and the village is home now to various research centers, including the Plug-In Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center and the Program for International Energy Technologies, among others. The research centers support various ongoing investigations, such as battery-buffered electric vehicle charging stations, a multifamily hybrid solar demonstration, single-family hybrid solar and demand-side management retrofits.