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By Leonard Novarro and Rosalynn Carmen             

    SDG&E puts its money where its mouth is – saving energy.   Download PDF Version click here
    The utility company put  more than $7 million into building its Energy Innovation Center at 4760 Clairemont  Mesa Blvd. in San Diego  a year ago and it has paid off in  becoming a showcase of what the future should be for business owner and consumer alike – clean energy and saving money.

    In addition to hosting hundreds of tours and seminars since the center opened in January 2012, SDG&E last year won the prestigious LEED platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council  for its state of the art building promoting energy efficiency and clean generation. The award also cited SDG&E’s innovative approach to actually reviving what was becoming a large block of dead commercial space in the heart of one of San Diego’s older neighborhoods.
    The building was gutted and retrofitted from the ground up from its original 1959 construction. Prior to the remake, the building had served as s grocery store that anchored the commercial complex and before that as a Ross Dress for Less that had gone out of business.
    From its parking lot outside to its floor of recycled material and a myriad of other details inside, the center IS  a look at what’s  in store for the future and a host of innovations designed to benefit new homeowners, developers, restaurant owners and all forms of small business, whether retrofitting or starting anew.

    The first innovation to greet you are six sun-tracking solar trees providing shade and electricity in the lot outside the 27,000-square-foot building. Combined with solar panels on the roof of the building, enough energy is produced to power 48 homes. The center’s  roof solar panels reflect the sun’s rays in such a way they provide just enough heat in cool weather and also regulate the degree of penetration so they may cool the building as an alternative to much more costly air conditioning. The system also shuts down when the windows are open.

    The byword here – and to most features at the center – is “solar,” which is at the heart of many of the innovations in heating, air conditioning, ventilation and lighting.
    The lot outside also features a battery rechargeable station for electric cars that, when ready for commercial use, will cut charging time in half and reduce the cost of energy to a fifth of what it is now compared to the price of gasoline. The unit could be rolled out within the next two years.
    The center is not about “what we are, but what we do,” said Yvonne Moreno, who, along with Frank Urtasun, SDG&E’s regional vice president of external affairs, kicked off a recent tour of the center.
    Some of the center’s features include
• Lobby carpeting made from recycled tires; 85 percent of materials used to build the center were reused or recycled.
• A food service demonstration kitchen, where restaurant owners can see the latest and most efficient ways of conserving energy, thereby reducing overhead.  Here, SDG&E features manufacturers  that the SDG&E  has worked with in designing energy-savings products that also carry rebates
• Double window panes in the lobby with outside awnings angled to the sun to allow morning sun and deflect heat in the afternoon to keep the temperature inside at a comfortable level  while cutting back on energy use
• A rain collection system on the roof that stores water for the building’s irrigation system

• Interactive informational kiosks
• A library of energy-efficient resources
• Drought resistant landscaping throughout
• An urban produce garden with the latest in irrigation technology, including a drip system that saves more than 50 percent on water consumption
• A model kitchen with the latest  in energy savings devices that can be regulated by cell phone
• High-tech skylights that reflect or direct  outdoor light to conference rooms and hallways when triggered by specialty  designed light switches
    Another aspect of the building is that many of the materials that went into its construction were harvested or processed within 500 miles of the site, thereby reducing the environmental impact of transporting  and shipping materials over  a long distance.
    The center “will be a valuable resource for the community,” said Hal Snyder, vice president of consumer relations for SDG&E, before the opening. And, indeed, it has, with more than a dozen seminars a month ranging from how to retrofit buildings with solar to how to restaurants may cook more efficiently.

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