California’s new homes to be zero carbon by 2020

California has established a goal for all new residential buildings to be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020. The Department of Energy’s (DoE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has launched two […]

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By Jonny Bairstow

California has established a goal for all new residential buildings to be zero net energy (ZNE) by 2020.

The Department of Energy’s (DoE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has launched two projects to help the state meet these targets. The California Energy Commission (CEC) is providing $2 million (£1.56m) in funding for the two projects.

The first project will provide detailed cost and performance modeling of ZNE homes and identify potential barriers to rollout.

Researchers say achieving zero net energy usually involves both reducing demand as well as providing on-site energy generation, often using solar panels.

Max Wei, the project’s Head Researcher, said: “If we want to achieve deep carbon reductions then ultimately we want to sharply reduce or eliminate natural gas consumption.

“Another key modeling area is energy storage and demand response and how these could be implemented to lower overall costs.”

The second project will study how acceptable indoor air quality can be maintained in ZNE homes that use natural gas.

As these homes become better insulated and more tightly sealed, ventilation becomes a more important issue.

Researchers found hazardous levels of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter in many homes, generated by cooking food and from gas burners.

Berkeley Lab Researcher Brett Singer, who is leading the air quality project, said: “The kitchen generates a lot of pollutants, especially in homes with gas burners.

“We want to efficiently remove those pollutants where they’re generated so we don’t waste energy overventilating the whole house.”

New technology to convert waste heat into power could save California up to $385 million (£304.1m) per year.