Residential solar energy systems do not need to be isolated systems providing power for one individual home. They are most effective when grouped to service a complete land development or sub-division. A prime example of this can be seen in a new eco-village development at Witchcliffe, near Margaret River, Western Australia.
Sustainable Green Building Design
If most Australians were aware of what was going to happen to planet earth this century, they would be lining up to buy a house and land package in an environmentally sustainable eco-village.
Shaping such a development is not a simple task. A developer needs to be fully aware of how to design a sustainable residential subdivision and set guidelines that will work. Correct green building design must be incorporated into every unit. It is imperative that solid guidelines are attached to property developments to deliver outcomes that are a win for the residents, the community and the environment, by reducing energy and water and preserving the natural world.
For a small developer, joining forces with a major real estate development company with high ethics is a smart move for all involved. In this case it gave the smaller developer of the project the financial clout it needed to succeed. Whilst so many dream, very few successfully act and deliver.
A developer needs to start considering the needs and best interests of the community. In Margaret River, not everyone is a retired real estate agent or doctor, or has a large bank account. They may not be rich in financial resources but they are good, down-to-earth people who greatly appreciate nature and want to help co-exist with it.
Unfortunately the huge explosion in the demand for large expensive homes by those mainly benefiting from the mining boom in Western Australia, has pushed up consumption, energy use and the sizes of houses.
With building costs skyrocketing over the last few years, many people have had the dream of owning their own home all but destroyed. This particular developer in Margaret River decided from the beginning when buying the land, to not only to do something for the environment, but to also tackle the issue of affordability. By producing correctly designed, small blocks as part of a wider community, he has combined economies of scale and collective action, to reduce the costs of a house and land to within the reach of the average person in the region. At the same time it makes it attractive for similar people in the city to opt for an alternative style of living.
His timing is unpredictable. Energy use is set to increase by 50% world-wide that compounding the greenhouse effect. It will also produce huge increases in energy prices in the next couple of decades, as all known sources of energy are depleted. The cost-effective residential solar energy systems used provide power for a groups of homes, not just single units.
What we now call an 'alternative' lifestyle may not be described this way for much longer. If the world keeps going the way it is, then we are going to need more of this style of living. The growth of energy use and the depletion of the world's energy resources will ensure that conventional lifestyles will not be afforded by anyone except the wealthy and those lacking public consciousness.
Healthy food and fresh clean water is the key to a healthy life and through cutting-edge water technology and productive landscaping, a well designed development such as this will deliver these precious commodities to all residents. Food and water bills will be kept to a minimum. This will be a great environment to bring up children and create a generation of socially and scientifically, sustainable people.
Green by Design
The developers also had the good sense to enlist an environmentalist and expert sustainable landscape designer and gardener, to ensure that the gardens and landscape are designed in detail to complement their vision for the estate.
The vision for this eco-village is to create a world leading sustainable community in Witchcliffe. The village will combine 180 strata titled home sites with an extensive range of on-site infrastructure and services to create a world-leading example of sustainable development that achieves:
- 100% net power generation on site with solar PV and wind turbines,
- 100% self-sufficiency in water through on-site rainwater harvesting,
- 100% production of seasonal fresh produce on site,
- Class A recycled water for household garden and toilets,
- all homes to face expansive open space and community gardens,
- high-efficiency, solar passive homes,
- affordable house and land packages,
- on-site wind turbines to provide free charging for up to 100 electric vehicles,
- a local energy grid that employs smart grid technology
Micro Solar Economy
As a solar energy specialist closely concerned with the problems of climate change and the contribution that our built environment makes to pollution, I am pleased with this initiative and wish the developer every success for the project.
Solar energy in the forms of passive solar, green building design of the individual homes, photovoltaic panels and solar water heating, all will form a lynch pin to make this development a truly 'micro solar' economy. When combined with the organic approaches to water collection, gray water and waste recycling and the generation of bio fuels (courtesy of the greatest energy gift - the sun), the beneficial consequences from this development will be far-reaching.