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Bridging climate science, citizens, and policy

Off-Grid Development Plans In Colorado

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An article in this weekend’s Denver Post examined a number of planned developments within Colorado that are going to be net-zero, or generate all of the electricity that they use. There are a number of good things about this news.  One, it demonstrates that even in this harsh economic environment, developers aren’t throwing in the towel on the next generation of design.  Two, as more of these kinds of communities are created and their properties sold to the public, word about their advantages will spread.  Three, as more people hear about these technologies, more people will want them.  That will cause one bad thing about the technology to change: the price of development and installation will come down and become more affordable for more people, which is the fourth good thing.

I’ll excerpt some of the article below:

• The 503-acre Horizon Uptown project calls for 3,800 houses and 8,000 residents, near the Interstate 70 and E-470 interchange, near Buckley Air Force Base. Australian development firm Lend Lease aspires for its $2 billion project to be a net-zero carbon, energy and waste community with multifamily and single-family homes beginning in the low $100,000s. The project is still going through the planning process with the city of Aurora, but developers hope to turn dirt this fall.

• The Fort Zed project in Fort Collins has reaped $13 million in federal and local grants to transform the city’s downtown core — including the Colorado State University campus — into one of the country’s first zero-energy districts. The surge in funding has prodded the project’s organizers to increase their initial plans for generating 5 megawatts of energy to 50 megawatts, enough to power more than 38,000 homes for a year.

• The 250-home Geos neighborhood in Arvada should begin construction work this summer or fall with homes starting around $220,000. It will feature airtight construction that reduces energy needs by 75 percent. A checkerboard layout maximizes each home’s passive solar collection, delivering 60 percent of the home’s winter heating needs through sunshine on windows.  Norbert Klelbl, Geos’ developer, says he has whittled the cost of energy efficiency to a mere 10 percent to 12 percent increase over traditionally built homes.

I found it incredible that an Australian development firm has a $2 billion project in the works in Aurora.  I am a huge fan of its plans to be net-zero carbon, energy and waste.  That’s an audacious goal and any success met working toward that goal is laudable.  I also really like the plans to make some of the houses start in the $100,000s.  It’s going to be critical to push these technologies down the income demographics if they’re ever to penetrate the mainstream market effectively.

50MW of power in Fort Collins is no less significant, especially since it’s 10 times the original goal.  It might be one of the first zero-energy districts (an enviable status, btw), but it certainly won’t be the last.  This is exactly the kind of planned development that needs to take place as we transition to a cleaner economy and cleaner ways of living.  In terms of competitiveness and attractiveness of residency and community, older, outdated houses and neighborhoods will eventually begin to suffer from lack of demand.

Cross-posted at SquareState.

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