The roof-integrated solar photovoltaic system is designed to blend seamlessly with roofing materials.

LAS VEGAS - The rise in population across the Desert Southwest has led to a strain on the region’s electrical grid, resulting in higher residential energy costs and, in some cases, electricity overloads and blackouts. To find a solution, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) Center for Energy Research, in partnership with Pulte Homes and NV Energy, received approximately $7 million in grant funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a demonstration project - a community of homes that incorporate energy efficient features and smart grid technology to cut residential energy use by more than one-half.

More than $5.7 million of the grant comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act as part of a national effort to improve the efficiency and reliability of the nation’s electrical grid.

The UNLV Center for Energy Research team is monitoring the energy performance of up to 185 homes in Villa Trieste, a community under development in northwest Las Vegas that combines various energy-saving features along with advanced metering technologies to provide communication between the homeowner and utility and encourage less energy use.

“Reducing the demand for electricity during peak summer hours has become a significant issue for both homeowners and utilities, particularly in the heat of the Desert Southwest,” said Bob Boehm, distinguished professor of engineering and director of the UNLV Center for Energy Research. “Villa Trieste will demonstrate on a large scale that significant reduction in peak energy demand can be achieved through conscientious building design and practical application of new technology.”

The single-family, two-story houses range from 1,487 to 1,960 square feet and feature a roof-integrated solar power system that blends seamlessly with roofing materials, a dashboard that gives the resident energy consumption/generation information, 15 SEER air conditioner, 92 percent AFUE furnace, tankless water heater, and other energy and water conserving features. The houses are built to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

Each home’s generated solar power will reduce the electricity drawn from the electrical grid. Centralized battery storage at the substation level will draw energy from the homes during off-peak hours for use during peak periods, when the grid is taxed.

The Villa Trieste community is taking an advanced approach to energy savings to significantly reduce peak demand.

In addition, advanced meters and an Internet communication system will allow the utility to transmit almost instantaneous power cost information to the homeowner and enable the homeowner to respond. In general, power costs increase during peak demand periods, so the homeowner could react to this information to shed load and save money. In addition to active participation, an intelligent agent is being developed that could be set to any choice from no modification to full modification of loads. Each event of load shedding that the utility is allowed would have some type of reimbursement associated with it. Included in these events could be control of the home thermostat for predefined periods, ability to turn off pool pumps, on through a variety of other actions including controlling plug loads.

Even after the first homes are sold, research will continue with the goal to reduce peak energy consumption by as much as 65 percent compared to a typical new development. UNLV researchers will monitor home performance against simulation models and modify as necessary to achieve maximum efficiency. Solar photovoltaic system performance will be monitored and adjusted to achieve peak demand offset. Also, homes with varying technologies will be compared for performance characteristics.

More information on the UNLV Center for Energy Research and the Villa Trieste project is available at

Publication date:11/09/2009