By Mike Luery | KCRA News
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A report released Wednesday by the University of California, Davis, shows the university is now one step closer to creating a community that produces as much energy as it uses.
West Village, located on UC Davis land near the school campus center, is truly a living lab — home to 2,000 students, staff and faculty residing in buildings that have cut projected energy demand in half.
“I’ve actually lived here for about a month,” said Maggie Snyder, a UC Davis junior from Monterey.
Snyder said living in West Village means having her own private bedroom with a ceiling fan to help save energy.
“We do try to limit the amount of energy that we use,” Snyder said. “And it may be as simple as just turning out the light when you leave your room, or turning off the fan. I know that sounds pretty small but it can make a huge impact.”
At West Village, students travel to class on buses that use compressed natural gas and then live in buildings with solar panels on every roof. Their apartments all have energy-efficient appliances in a village that is now generating 82 percent of all the energy it uses.
“Each and every room as well as the apartment itself is oriented north to south or east to west,” said Terry Massey of Carmel Properties. “Now what that means is it capitalizes on the Delta Breeze.”
West Village is the largest planned zero-net energy community in the country.
“Zero-net energy means you produce on site through renewable energy production — in this case solar panels — the same amount that you consume over the course of a year,” said Ben Finkelor, executive director for the Energy Efficiency Center at UC Davis.
West Village is a $280 million project, supported by public-private partnerships along with federal and state grants. And even though it has existed for just four years, the village of students and researchers is already attracting the interest of developers near and far.
“There’s a company from Dubai right now that came and visited here,” said Sid England, assistant vice chancellor for the Office of Environmental Stewardship and Sustainability at UC Davis. “And they’re building a new West Village as a prototype in Dubai. Our chancellor is going to be going there later this month.”
Ben Finkelor added: “Sometimes two times a week we’ll have delegations from Australia, Taiwan, China.”
The planners are West Village predict they will meet their goal of zero net energy use by 2018.
“It’s fantastic having your own bedroom and your own bathroom,” said student Maggie Snyder, who also works at West Village.
Snyder lives in a three-bedroom furnished unit at West Village and pays $930 a month, with all utilities included.
By comparison, students could expect to spend $1,373 in rent for an unfurnished two-bedroom apartment in the city of Davis, according to a 2014 survey commissioned by the UC Davis Office of Student Housing. That same study found the average rental rate for off-campus units rented by the bed (such as they are at West Village) was $827.
As for living on-campus, residence hall rates include a meal plan and are paid by the quarter, but would amount to approximately $1,520 to $1,607 a month in rent, according to UC Davis.