Retrofit Package Helps Low-Income California Community Go Solar


Village at Beechwood, a low-income apartment community in Lancaster, California, might just become a model used nationwide for sustainable housing for low-income communities. This is thanks to a $2.46 million research project being funded by the California Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and lead by the Electric Power Research Institute.

The goal of the project is to develop a retrofit package that will make Village at Beechwood more energy and water efficient, and as close to near-zero net energy as possible. The package will include insulation, ENERGY STAR kitchen appliances and efficient lighting, an efficient boiler, and smart irrigation controllers with new sprinkler heads.

The package will also provide an on-site solar PV system that will produce 145,000 kWh per year to offset energy use, along with a solar domestic hot water system that will generate over 4,300 therms per year. It will be installed by eight residents from the apartment community who will be provided green job training from Everyday Energy and Labor Ready. The training will qualify them to find employment in the solar industry after the installation.

What better place to start a program like this than Lancaster, whose mayor has made major commitments to solar?

Overall, this project will bring gas usage down by 45%, electricity down by 33%, and irrigation water down by 21%. The two apartments that have already received the package and been completely retrofitted have saved 70% of their net energy, and now an additional 28 units have received approval for retrofitting. The hope is that these units will provide a model that other apartment units — beyond just the ones in Beechwood — can easily replicate.

Project backers and collaborators also include LINC Housing, SEED Partners, BiraEnergy, Southern California Gas Company, and Southern California Edison.