On a blistering hot day earlier this month, U-Hauls filled the parking lot next to the University of California, Davis, as students and staff moved into a spanking new housing complex touted as the largest \u201cnet zero\u201d development in North America. The university and the developers hope that the combination of the development\u2019s efficiencies and solar power will fuel the energy demands of up to 3,000 residents\/year as well as several businesses. West Village, which sits on 130 acres of former farmland, includes advanced energy efficiency building designs and interior appliances along with a 4 MW solar system. Much of the development\u2019s net savings goal is expected to be met through the efficiency measures and appliances. \u201cThe renewable side is more challenging,\u201d said Stephen Condrin, UC Davis West Village director. Currently the renewable resource is the 4 MW of solar panels, which the developer owns. The next development phase is expected to include a natural gas-supplied fuel cell and anaerobic digester. The $280 million West Village development is a \u201cliving laboratory,\u201d said Ben Finkelor, UC Davis energy efficiency center executive director. Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom called the development\u2019s target of having its energy savings and production match consumption a \u201cstretch goal.\u201d Earlier this year, he applauded West Village as \u201ceconomically responsible and environmentally sustainable.\u201d The four-story residential buildings, which are 100 percent electricity-powered, include solar reflective roof materials, radiant barrier roof sheathing, and walls with added insulation. They include high-efficiency air conditioning systems and appliances, which together are expected to save 50 percent more energy than what is required by current building standards. The cool temperature and soft day light inside the model apartment for the complex created by sunshades over the windows and roof overhangs were in striking contrast to the roasting outdoor environment. The appliances and fixtures\u2014from the electric stove to the lights\u2014are highly efficient and sleek. The faucets and toilets are low flow and much of the building material is recycled. The one surprise was the large inside gym that uses electric treadmills, stair masters, and other workout equipment, instead of human-powered devices. Nearly 18 of the planned 32 apartment complexes are completed. In the works are also 343 net zero homes and 42,500 square feet of commercial space. UC Davis is the land owner and signed a 65-year lease with Carmel Partners and its partner Urban Villages. The use of solar thermal technology was ruled out after a study showed that using the rooftops for solar panels was more economical, said Condrin. The university considered owning the SunPower solar project and connecting distribution lines but decided against becoming \u201ca utility\u201d because of the tight construction deadline, Condrin said. As a result, the power flows through Pacific Gas & Electric wires. The rents cover both electricity and water use. PG&E sends the utility bill to the developer. To help meet the net zero energy goals and curb some students\u2019 propensity to overuse electronic gadgets, the leases allow the developer to increase the water use charge to offset excess energy use. \u201cThe specific electrical consumption targets for the apartments vary by unit and are based on energy consumption modeling prepared by Davis Energy Group,\u201d according to Condrin. Residents with smart phones can turn appliances off or on remotely. The project was not initially conceived as a net zero development, but several of the UC Davis energy groups convinced the developers of the economic soundness of building an efficient structure, Finkelor said. The solar project was sold partly on the accompanying subsidies. They included the California Energy Commission New Solar Homes Partnership incentive and federal grants and depreciation. In addition, the developer has a performance warranty from SunPower. The West Village development comprises two phases for a combined 475 new homes for faculty and staff, plus housing for 3,000 students. The first phase of the project, to be completed this year, is to include apartment housing for 2,000 students, an education center for Los Rios Community College, recreation and study facilities, a village square surrounded by neighborhood-serving retail establishments, and 343 single family homes for sale to faculty and staff.