The past year has been challenging, to say the least–from extreme heat waves and inflation to international conflict and an ongoing pandemic, these difficulties have, at times, seemed insurmountable.
Yet we had reasons to celebrate. In the spring, the EcoBlock research team hand-picked the fourteen best tree species for the block and looked into how residents choose different energy-efficiency home improvements. With support from Tuttle Law Group, the EcoBlock Community Association Board of Directors developed legal agreements required for the creation and operation of a formal Community Association. The Energy team dug into the technical side of things, designing home energy management systems (HEMs) and a block-level microgrid communications network, all while major legislative and financial decisions–including the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and Net Energy Metering (NEM) 3.0 tariff–were made.
As we ease into 2023, we’d like to reflect on some of the key milestones the project has achieved thus far:
EcoBlock Homeowners Join the EcoBlock Community Association
Completing member recruitment and onboarding for the EcoBlock Community Association was a huge win for the block! In June 2022, 14 homeowners representing 25 units (24 residential, 1 commercial) officially signed the Membership Agreement and joined the Association, a democratic, non-profit mutual benefit corporation that will collectively be responsible for, managing shared assets such as the microgrid controller, battery storage, solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, and a shared electric vehicle (EV) and curbside charger.
From figuring out an appropriate governance structure to navigating legal paperwork and community relationships, the process of establishing the Association wasn’t easy. That said, this milestone would not have happened without the dedicated leadership of the Association Board of Directors, who recruited individual homeowners, as well as the patient participation of the block residents.
Research Team Prepares for Construction
2022 was also a year of preparation. In June, Sherwood Design Engineers submitted permit plans for the end-of-block stormwater mitigation design to the City of Oakland for review and are currently updating drawings per City feedback.
Toward the end of the year, XUtility submitted PG&E service upgrade applications–documents that kickstart the process of increasing the electrical capacity of all participating EcoBlock units to accommodate the electrification of natural gas appliances. Just this month, the Wholesale Distribution Tariff (WDT) application was submitted, which covers the central, front-of-meter microgrid battery. Next on the list are applications for the Net Energy Metering (NEM) tariff and meter for the curbside EV charger, which also requires a permit from the City of Oakland.
On the design/construction front, Siegel and Strain Architects finalized the design of the EcoBlock Energy Shack, a detached storage shed that will hold the central microgrid battery for the block. The plan drawings for the Energy Shack were submitted in December 2022 and are currently undergoing review by the City of Oakland’s Building Department.
So what’s next for EcoBlock? This year, we plan to begin the in-home and block-level retrofits. We also hope to better understand the refundable tax credits and rebates that are provided under the Inflation Reduction Act, and apply them to the Oakland EcoBlock. The project has also received additional grant funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which will increase support for stormwater mitigation and street landscaping efforts on the block.
Here’s to a fruitful 2023!
Cover image credit: Haixin Guo