This section is devoted to anything and everything related to sustainable energy.

100 percent and a gold star – Grow aces the solar test

Already the largest solar neighborhood in Washington state, Grow Community hit another milestone this week.

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With the completion of two more solar installations, every single-family home and duplex in Grow’s first phase, the Village, is now powered by photovoltaics.

PV systems numbers 22 and 23 are online and producing renewable energy, improving the neighborhood’s already stellar self-sufficiency while promising generous utility savings and financial returns for the homeowners.

“It’s a landmark moment for Grow Community and Washington solar,” says Greg Lotakis, project manager. “With 100 percent participation, our residents are really showing the way forward for neighborhoods that want to choose solar for a sustainable energy future.”

Grow’s next two phases, the Grove and the Park, will also offer the solar option.  Stay tuned for more details.

Grow sets the table for Urban Agriculture

Grow Community is outstanding in its field — more precisely, its planter boxes.

Grow is one of 10 exemplars of the new Urban Agriculture, the Urban Land Institute Magazine says in its current issue. The ULI praises Grow for the rich mix of raised beds and plantings throughout the community grounds, tended by residents and yielding a bounty of fruits, vegetables and herbs to be shared by all.

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It’s a sustainable strategy, the magazine writes, narrowing the wasteful distance between farm and table and enhancing food security. It’s an idea that’s catching on — and one that puts Grow Community in the forefront of a national movement.

“The rise of the locavore movement dovetails with an increased awareness of the health benefits of choosing fresh vegetables and fruits over highly processed foods,” ULI writes. “In response, municipalities, nonprofit organizations, developers, and entrepreneurs are bringing agrarian practices into the city, shrinking food deserts, helping educate people about gardening practices, and reconnecting city dwellers to the source of their food.”

Grow Community’s first phase, the Village, includes extensive gardens while the next phase, the Grove, now under construction, will be arranged around an orchard to produce “edible landscaping.”

Other projects feted by the ULI include the Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans, La.; sprawling and productive rooftop gardens on Chicago’s McCormick Place convention center; and other amazing plots and pea-patches that have sprouted up in unlikely urban settings in Toronto, London, Montreal, Los Angeles and other major metropolitan areas. Great company for Grow!

Thanks to the Urban Land Institute for calling attention to Grow Community’s commitment to healthy, sustainable urban agriculture.

Read the whole story here.

2014 Roof-Mount Project of the Year Runner-Up: Grow Community

Grow is a runner-up in Solar Builder magazine’s 2014 Project of the Year contest in the roof-mount systems category. We earn a nice feature in the glossy magazine’s new issue, and you can read the story online here or scroll down.

“We wanted to deliver a product that both was designed to be extremely energy efficient but also had the idea of solar in mind at the time of design,” project manager Greg Lotakis tells Solar Builder. “We started at the roof, asked how many panels we could get on it, designed the roof for that, [estimated] what we expected [to] produce, and then we used that energy budget and worked backwards into the house. What we are really striving to do: deliver a really healthy, energy-efficient home that has the ability to be net zero with solar.”

It worked! Grow is already the largest planned solar community in Washington, with more solar on the way in our next two neighborhoods, the Grove and the Park.

It’s also a great success for local manufacturing. Grow Community uses Made In Washington solar components including microinverters by Blue Frog/APS and solar modules by itek Energy

Oh, by the way: The winning project is Solar For Seals, a rooftop system powering a Luguna Beach, CA, environmental center that rescues and rehabilitates injured marine mammals. We don’t mind finishing second to those guys!

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SOLAR BUILDER MAGAZINE
October 21, 2014 by

If you could create the perfect community to live in, what would it look like? What would be essential to your happiness?

grow-3A group from Bainbridge Island, Wash., asked these questions when embarking on a new housing development a few years back. Stacked apartment complexes and cookie-cutter houses had been done before; you probably live in one right now. But given the chance to live in a new and unique community that puts the planet first, would residents be on board?

The answer was an overwhelming, “Yes, please!” Grow Community‘s first batch of sustainable, solar-ready homes sold out almost immediately, and the next round expects the same result. The largest solar community in Washington (currently at 112 kW and growing), Grow consists of 23 homes and two 10-unit apartments, and more houses are coming. Along with open green spaces, underground parking, and water softeners to keep hard water damage at bay (click here), the neighborhood has shared community gardens and energy-efficient everything (insulated walls, quality windows, everything). This housing development’s impressive community impact led to it winning second place in the roof-mount category of Solar Builder‘s 2014 Project of the Year awards.

Grow Community is the brainchild of Bainbridge Island investors, including Asani LLC, an integrated real estate development services and investment company, and PHC Construction, a building contractor with a strong passion for sustainability. Together, they envisioned an urban community built on the principles of One Planet – a global program for green neighborhoods based on living within the resources provided by “one planet.”

grow-players-300x146The One Planet idea first started in the United Kingdom with help from BioRegional, an entrepreneurial charity that initiates and delivers solutions to live within a fair share of the earth’s resources. For example, BioRegional estimates that North Americans use about 5.5 planets of resources to go about their daily lives; residents of the United Kingdom use 3 planets. One Planet communities (there are only nine endorsed in the world, and Grow Community is now one of them) use 10 guiding principles to develop appropriate sustainability solutions through design and construction to bring society’s usage down to one planet: zero carbon, zero waste, sustainable transport, sustainable materials, local and sustainable food, sustainable water, land use and wildlife, culture and heritage, equity and local economy and, finally, health and happiness.

“One Planet is very much focused on creating an opportunity for communities to support each other in meeting the goals of living a one-planet lifestyle,” says Greg Lotakis, Grow Community’s project manager with Asani. “One of the principles is health and happiness, and that’s obviously hard to quantify. How can you make it fun and healthy to pursue zero carbon?”

Grow’s developers felt that working toward the zero carbon and zero waste goals would eventually lead to health and happiness; residents would be happy they were living a sustainable life. One of the easiest ways to get there was to incorporate solar power into the plans.

“We wanted to deliver a product that both was designed to be extremely energy efficient but also had the idea of solar in mind at the time of design,” Lotakis says. “We started at the roof, asked how many panels we could get on it, designed the roof for that, [estimated] what we expected [to] produce, and then we used that energy budget and worked backwards into the house. What we are really striving to do: deliver a really healthy, energy-efficient home that has the ability to be net zero with solar.”

grow-4Solar was not forced upon any of the first 23 homes; all eventual homeowners were given the choice to install solar modules. All of the homes (except for one, where the homeowner traveled and was away from home enough over the year that saving additional costs with solar didn’t make sense) decided solar was a good option.

“You provide people choice, and you look at the opportunities that exist out there and bring them together, and the result is that (just about) everyone at Grow has chosen to pursue solar,” Lotakis says.

Local, Washington-made solar products – Itek Energy modules, APS America microinverters and SunModo mounting systems – came aboard for the project, along with local installer A&R Solar. Keeping everything within the state helped achieve the “equity and local economy” One Planet principle. Asani also approached local credit union Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union to work out solar loan options for the residents.

“The credit union has a program where they – with as little as 0 down – can create a second loan for your solar system, and they understand the local production incentives and are willing to back the loan knowing that you have the ability to pay off your loan within five to six years,” Lotakis says. “We were able to sit down with homeowners who had just taken out a loan and say, ‘Look, your home is ready to be net zero. This is your proposed system cost, this is who we have lined up to install it and why we chose the products we did, this is the credit union that could help you get into a loan to get this done so you don’t have to have any money out of pocket.’ The result is through their choice, and 80% of the folks did the loan process.”

Residents have been living in their homes anywhere between six and 18 months, and Lotakis says they’re astounded by their $10 or cheaper electric bills for their all-electric homes.

grow-1“All these things are in place, it’s kind of a moment,” Lotakis says, citing the incentives still available for those going solar in Washington. “We saw the opportunities, we created the opportunities for our homeowners, and they took it. We’re thrilled we gave that choice to people and they ran with it.”

The Pacific Northwest is known for being eco-conscious. Bainbridge Island, just one 35-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle, already encouraged green-living. Lotakis says Grow Community was a sure-thing for people looking to really embrace a sustainable lifestyle.

“The city and the planners have done a good job with smart growth requirements,” he says. “People were attracted to Grow because we were creating an intentional community focused on being eco-conscious. Its location was a sell, the design of the homes was a sell. You could be eco-conscious, but, as a numbers person, it was an easy sell.”

Grow is a Solar Builder Magazine finalist!

Grow Community is one of six finalists for Solar Builder magazines’s prestigious 2014 Project of the Year award.

Grow was nominated in the Roof-Mount installation category. The annual contest honors innovative applications of solar technology in residential and commercial settings.

Grow Community, is already the largest planned solar community in Washington state. The award-winning community has been designed around the idea that homes should produce all the energy their residents would need (net-zero impact) while capturing the financial benefits that come with producing renewable energy.

The 112kW (and growing) solar component is powered by Made-In-Washington equipment including PV modules by itek Energy of Bellingham and microinverters by Blue Frog/APS of Poulsbo/Bainbridge Island. Installation is by A&R Solar of Seattle, with solar financing by Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union.

The winning project will be featured on the cover of the next issue of Solar Builder magazine, and will be honored at a special ceremony at the Solar Power International convention in Las Vegas, Oct. 20-23.

VOTE FOR GROW HERE!

 

 

Grow Community solar program highlighted in Kitsap Business Journal

Grow Community’s groundbreaking solar program got some great press this week in a Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal feature. Read it here.

The KPBJ gives a comprehensive look at the incentives that make Washington solar such a great deal, using Grow Community as a case study. The journal highlights Blue Frog’s Solar’s Simple Solar program, which makes it easier than ever to make the move to energy self-sufficiency. Blue Frog provides the advanced microinverter technology integral to each Grow Community home solar system.

As the Business Journal notes:

Blue Frog is collaborating on the largest residential solar project in Kitsap County — Bainbridge Island’s Grow Community, a project of real estate development and investment firm Asani. It’s an example of effectively designing and building homes to accommodate rooftop solar panels.
“We knew from the outset that our goal was to create a net-zero community using solar,” says Marja Preston, senior director of development at Asani and owner of a solar home at Grow. “So everything there was designed, including the apartments, so we could get enough solar panels on the roof to provide all the energy needed for the homeowner.”

Thanks to the Kitsap Peninsula Business Journal and editor Tim Kelly for the great coverage! Find out more about Simple Solar here.

 

 

What does Washington’s largest planned solar community look like from the air?

Here’s a bird’s-eye view of Grow Community phase 1, the Village, and its remarkable concentration of energy-producing rooftops.

Grow Community homes are now producing 85-105 percent of their energy needs, eliminating residents’ power bills and earning financial credits through Washington’s strong solar incentives.

Grow Community solar – now a radio star!

Grow Community’s solar program got the star treatment on KIRO-FM’s “Real Estate Today” over the weekend.

Grow project manager Greg Lotakis was among the panelists for “Simple Solar,” an hourlong discussion of Washington’s dramatic solar incentives and the ease of financing new solar systems for homeowners — and the tremendous benefits for solar adapters like Grow Community residents.

Real Estate Today’s popular host Tom Kelly interviewed Greg along with Tim Bailey, Blue Frog Solar founder and principal; Shannon Ellis-Brock, COO of Puget Sound Cooperative Credit Union; Reeves Clippard, founder and CEO of A&R Solar of Seattle. On-air callers had great questions for the in-studio team, our partners in the Grow solar program.

Almost 100% of homes in Grow phase 1, the Village, now have an operational solar system or are queued up to get one installed, giving Grow distinction as the largest planned solar community in Washington state. Solar will be a key feature of our next two phases, the Grove and the Park.

Homes in the Village are producing between 85 and 105 percent of their energy needs through their rooftop installations.

“Until you can see and feel and understand that it works, it feels like it’s a myth,” Greg told Real Estate Today listeners.
“It’s been pretty remarkable.”

Listen to a podcast of the program on the Real Estate Today website.

Big thanks to Tom Kelly for his interest in Grow Community and the Simple Solar program!

NEEA, Next Steps Homes – Case Study

The Everett home in the Village is part of NEEA‘s (Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance) pilot project: Next Step Homes. The purpose of this pilot – partnering with a select group of builders across the Northwest – is to determine the most cost-effective ways to build homes that will achieve the greatest energy. Check out our case study on their website here and learn more.

Trees for Global Benefits visiting Grow

Pauline, the Director of Trees for Global Benefits was visiting at Grow this last week.  This program sells carbon offsets to provide funds supports farmers in Uganda, providing funds to help them plant trees and manage their land.  Carbon offsets are sold to help fund the program which creates sustainable livelihoods for families in Uganda.  The revenue from the carbon offsets and from well-managed agricultural land helps them to get loans, to pay for school fees, to buy food for their children.  Grow supports Trees for Global Benefits on an ongoing basis.

For more information about Trees for Global Benefits see this video

Or go to their website: http://www.planvivo.org/projects/registeredprojects/trees-for-global-benefits-uganda/

Building for Wellness: The Business Case – Urban Land Institute

DOES WELLNESS MAKE BUSINESS SENSE AS A DEVELOPMENT OBJECTIVE?
How have developers pursued this objective? What has the market response been? And how have developers measured their success?

Grow Community is featured in this publication by Urban Land Institute as a case study on building for wellness.

Building for Wellness provides answers directly from developers who have completed projects with wellness intentions. In 13 sets of interviews, developers explain their motivation, their intended wellness and health outcomes, the development process and operations as related to their health intentions, and the key issue in this publication—the metrics of market performance.

Click here to read the publication.