Menlo Park, Calif., is in some ways the spiritual home of the tech industry. Venture capital offices line Sand Hill Road, which runs through the town, and several billion dollar businesses -- including Meta -- have called the town home.
Now, the city is embarking on an ambitious new plan to upgrade some of its least technologically advanced assets -- the infrastructure of the buildings that these companies call home.
Working with the New York-based startup, BlocPower, Menlo Park's city council is hoping to electrify thousands of buildings to make the city carbon neutral by 2030.
Most buildings rely on fossil fuels like natural gas to power things like boilers and stoves -- and studies have shown that switching to electric appliances like heat pumps, electric water heaters, and electric ovens are better for the environment, more energy efficient, and reduce demand for fossil fuels.
For cities like Menlo Park, which has a goal of carbon neutrality by 2030, electrifying everything can go a long way toward meeting its targets.
With a population of roughly 35,000, Menlo Park estimates that fossil fuel consumption to power buildings is around 41% of its total emissions, according to a CNBC report.
Menlo Park is the second small town to turn to BlocPower for help with retrofitting its buildings and ensuring new ones are completely electric.
Ithaca, NY, the small city in New York's mountainous North that's home to Cornell University, is also working with BlocPower on an electrification scheme.
That project could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and is another example of how small towns across America are becoming hotbeds of sustainability experimentation.
These decisions aren't just good for the city's bottom line, they're good for its residents wallets as well.
In Menlo Park, the voluntary plan would see 1,000 buildings per year retrofit to include heat pumps for heating and cooling, electric water heaters, electric vehicle charging stations, solar power integrations and battery storage. The state of California already requires new construction include solar energy.
“Menlo Park just set a crucial, historic climate precedent as the first city on the West Coast to establish a public/private partnership of this kind,” said Angela Sherry Evans, Environmental Quality Commissioner, City of Menlo Park, in a statement announcing the deal.
At the time of BlocPower's announcement with Ithaca, the company's chief executive, Donnel Baird said that the small town had "laid the groundwork for other cities across the U.S. to follow."
It seems like Menlo Park, Calif. became the next city to dig in. With BlocPower's help, more towns could follow suit on the road to a cleaner, greener future.