How Net Zero Energy Could Save You Money

04/25/2018 | By Janelle Penny

In a move that mirrors national growth in net zero energy buildings, the Maui College campus of the University of Hawai’i will soon become the first campus in the U.S. to generate all of its energy from on-site solar photovoltaic systems.

Net Zero: A Growing Market

The net zero buildings market has grown over 700% since 2012, according to the New Buildings Institute (NBI), with 67 buildings and districts achieving net zero certification and another 415 in the process of documenting energy-neutral operation. Private sector investment now represents nearly half of the buildings registered with NBI, which may be due at least partially to the operational savings that net zero energy status can deliver.

Buildings without the on-site generation component can still result in steep savings in the form of ultra-low energy consumption These facilities are often referred to as emerging zero energy or net zero ready buildings.

“Zero energy buildings use less than half the energy of typical buildings, saving owners and occupants money on energy bills,” says Ralph DiNola, CEO of NBI. “We see zero energy buildings taking off across the country in all climate zones – larger buildings, high energy-use buildings, private sector and residential are going zero energy – proving that deep energy savings is not only possible, but profitable in every market, in every region.”

The Maui College campus is currently in the emerging zero energy phase as it implements energy conservation measures. The next phase will increase the on-site capacity to 2.8 MW of solar photovoltaic and 13.2 MWh of battery storage. In addition, the five O’ahu campuses will share 7.7 MW of solar and 28.6 MWh of battery storage.

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An Energy Solution for Everyone

However, a sunny locale like Hawaii isn’t necessary for net zero success. The Howland Green Business Centre, a planned office building in Markham, ON, is designed to operate as net positive – i.e., it will generate more power than it needs to operate.

The building will be the first of its kind in Canada and will derive power from solar and geothermal energy sources. The solar photovoltaic system alone will capture about 420,000 W of energy and generate about 515,000 kWh, significantly exceeding the estimated operational demand of 430,000 kWh.

The building also features concrete formwork with a thermal resistance value of at least R-40, as well as R-80 roof insulation (roughly four times the minimum required by code), low-e argon gas windows up to R-9, rainwater harvesting, and lithium-ion and pneumatic energy storage.

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