Understanding regional clean energy development

By OWEN WALSH
Posted 10/16/19

Wayne County is pushing for economic development initiatives with minimal ecological footprints. Two such projects in the works include building “passive houses” in the region, and …

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Understanding regional clean energy development

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Wayne County is pushing for economic development initiatives with minimal ecological footprints. Two such projects in the works include building “passive houses” in the region, and enacting “commercial property assessed clean energy” (C-PACE). If those terms sound foreign to you, we’ve compiled some fast facts to help you understand what they’re all about.

Passive housing FAQ

What is ‘passive house’?
Passive house is a design standard for optimizing energy efficiency in homes and other buildings. By essentially making buildings as airtight as possible, passive-house designs can reduce energy consumption from heating and cooling needs by up to 90 percent, according to Passive House Institute U.S.

How are they built?
All passive buildings share five essential construction principles:

  • Continuous insulation throughout entire building with no “thermal bridging,” which refers to the uninsulated parts of standard buildings that allow heat to escape
  • Extremely airtight building envelope, which protects against the “infiltration of outside air and loss of conditioned air”
  • High-performance windows and doors that are able to absorb energy from the sun for heating during cold months, while preventing overheating during hot months
  • Balanced heat and moisture recovery ventilation
  • Minimal heating and cooling conditioning system

Are passive homes more expensive?
Passive houses typically cost about 5 to 10 percent more than a standard house, but that difference has been falling as demand for these kinds of houses increases. Passive homeowners also spend far less on their heating and cooling bills than standard homeowners.

Do passive homes need to be a certain shape or size?
Anything from a small home to a skyscraper can be built using the passive-house design. Passive houses must meet a strict criteria and require a certified architect to build, but that doesn’t mean they all look the same.

Do people in passive houses have to live differently?
A common misunderstanding about passive houses is that residents cannot open windows or doors as freely as regular homeowners, but research has found that this isn’t accurate.

In passive houses, the temperature is the same in every room. Some consider this a con, especially as many prefer to keep bedrooms cooler for sleeping.

C-PACE FAQ

What is C-PACE?
The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy defines C-PACE as a tool for financing renewable-energy upgrades or installations on commercial property through a long-term, low-interest loan.

Why would commercial property owners be interested?
The benefit to commercial property owners looking to improve their energy efficiency is two-fold. First, a C-PACE loan takes care of the upfront cost of a project. The loan is then paid back over a 20 to 25-year period. Over that time, property owners’ energy savings—as a result of the energy efficiency improvements—are greater than the additional yearly tax bill they pay to finance the C-PACE loan.

Who runs C-PACE?
C-PACE is not a federal program. Each state is responsible for authorizing its own C-PACE program through legislation (it has been authorized in both New York and Pennsylvania). Local governments are then responsible for carrying out C-PACE projects at a county-level.

Who is involved in a C-PACE deal?
There are usually five stakeholders involved:

  • An administrator who manages the project to ensure adherence to C-PACE requirements
  • A local government (the Wayne County Commissioners) that collects the additional property tax bill
    A contractor who takes care of completing project installation
  • The commercial property owner receiving the upgrade
  • Private investors, bondholders, or a government to provide the capital

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