It’s been a while since I’ve done a swoonable solar wrap-up, so the time has come once again to highlight some of my favourite solar projects from around the globe.
With Spring literally knocking on our front door here in Australia, and the winter chill decidedly absent from the air, my thoughts turn to sun drenched holidays and adventure laden escapades.
So what better way to get our holiday vibe on, than with these industry leading solar powered resorts? From the Maldives, to the Austrian Alps, this post is about chasing the sun…in more ways than one.
Finolhu Villas, the Maldives.
I wouldn’t be true to myself, or the state of the climate, if I didn’t start with this beautiful Club Med resort situated in Maldive perfection. I’ve never been a huge fan of Club Med myself but I take my hat off to them for this visionary and highly relevant luxury escape.
The beautiful Maldives is one of our earth’s magical desitinations. Aqua water, coral atolls and a wonderfully pristine environment. Yet it’s also one of the places most at threat from climate change and rising sea levels. So I applaud Club Med for creating this 5 star resort and showing that sustainability and luxury go hand-in-hand.
Finolhu Villas is an over water resort located on the 13 acre Kaafu Atoll. Designed by Yuji Yamazaki Architecture, it has already won the International Hotel and Property Award for Best Beach Resort 2015 – no surprise really.
4000 PV Solar Panels breathe light into this stunning resort; ingeniously treated as a design element, the glass panels form the roof of covered walkways and dreamy dappled light filter through – providing shade and shelter for resort guests. The solar system produces around a Megawatt of power per day. Plenty to power the resort, with battery storage engineered to kick in on overcast or rainy days.
“This project was an architect’s dream come true,” said Architect Yamazaki. “The chance to imagine a resort in this gorgeous setting and to experiment to meet the challenge of energy independence has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Richard Branson – a clean Caribbean – Necker and Moskito Islands
Necker Island Resort in the Caribbean, is well known as Richard Branson’s playground. But it’s now also cool for its micro grid – generating the majority of its power through solar and wind; designed as a pilot project to show other islands in the region what can be achieved without the use of expensive polluting generators.
Now Branson’s new development on Moskito Island (named after the Indian Tribe) is truly redefining the concept of the eco-resort. 5 x 3 bedroom villas will house carefully selected billionaire neighbours. A striking cliff top residence is for Branson himself and 20 other villas are planned to complete the magical retreat. It will also house staff, an organic garden and orchard, plus walking trails open to the public. All this powered by solar and wind alone.
“We know that islands will suffer the most from climate change and sea level rise” Branson says, “Reefs will be devastated and wildlife decimated”. But he goes on “It’s realistic to think that whole islands could be 75-80% clean energy in four to five years.”
In great leadership style Branson is demonstrating what can be achieved, encouraging others to follow. The solar world needs advocates like him – ones who have the money, resources, influence, charisma, heart, vision and courage to make this world a better place. Branson shows time after time that money is not the root of all evil, it’s what we do with it that counts.
From the divine tropics of the Maldives to snow capped peaks…sun power can work where you’d least expect it.
This one is for an amazing friend of mine who got me back into skiing after a good 18 years off the snow…I’ll leave that story for another time (yep, it’s solar related I promise). But needless to say my keen love of the winter wonderland has been rekindled!
Writing about winter resorts and solar energy in the same sentence may seem counterintuitive, but ski resorts are seriously looking at ways to harness sunshine, improve their green creds, and save on the astronomic costs associated with keeping ski-bunnies happy and snowed-in all season. While no resort has nailed the 100% solar claim, there are a few coming close. All of this is sure to be made more viable thanks to improving battery storage technology.
Austria’s highest ski region – The Pitztal glacier, in the Tirol region, is installing a mammoth solar array this year. At 2,800 feet it will be Europe’s highest PV solar system (I’d love to know what the highest system in the world is at). The €2.5 million project will produce 850,000 kWh / year and generate enough energy to power 100% of the resort’s use. The coolest thing? (pardon the pun). The panels are actually 40% more effective at this towering altitude, than below in the valley!
Head from Europe to the US where 3 of New York’s State run ski areas are also on the solar run, using it to power their ski lifts and snow making operations. Under a 25 year power purchase agreement, Belleayre, Gore and Whiteface Mountain’s commitments are in keeping with Governor Cuomo’s ‘Reforming the Energy Vision’s NY Sun Initiative’ – worth $1 Billion in the quest to advance the uptake of solar in New York State.
Gore Mountain alone leads the charge with a cracking ski environment and the largest lift operation in the region. It chews through a whopping 13-million kilowatt hours (approx $1 million dollars in electricity costs) annually and solar will reduce the resort’s bill by over $200,000 in the first year alone.
The Phoenician, Starwood Luxury Collection resort, Arizona
We travel from majestic snowfields to the magnificent Arizona desert.
Solar PV systems are being embraced by some of the world’s top hotel chains as a fundamental part of their sustainability strategies – becoming a design feature, not just an energy saving device.
The Phoenician is a Starwood Luxury Collection resort in Arizona is set against the striking backdrop of Camelback Mountain and is now powered by 2,000 solar PV panels. These provide an injection of clean energy equivalent to powering 90 homes. It’s all inline with the hotel’s grand goal of reducing energy consumption by 30% and water by 20% by 2020 – a strategy driven by the company’s overall sense of responsibility to create a better world experience.
A 568kW solar energy system was installed at the resort using a design-led approach. It’s configured perfectly to work with the air-flow of the desert environment and offers a brilliant outdoor shaded event space.
It’s an awe-inspiring location and an awe-inspiring commitment from the Starwood Hotels Group worldwide to deliver a better environment for all to enjoy.
Hotel Indigo, Intercontinental Group, Dubai’s Sustainable City
Dubai hits the hot list once again; this time with a 100% solar powered eco-hotel resort. Part of The Sustainable City, it’s an ambitious and wondrous development in the middle of Dubai’s desert landscape.
Along with the 170 room luxury hotel – due to open in 2017 – the self-contained city will be made up of residences, a green school, a community centre, an equestrian centre (?!) solar covered car parks and an organic farm. And if the City on its own isn’t attraction enough for tourists, there’ll be a planetarium and a grass Amphitheatre for events…just another architectural masterpiece to add to Dubai’s bow.
As I finish writing this post, I already feel like I’ve been splashing around the world.
Next stop? Europe for real where I’ll be visiting some amazing clean tech plants and solar/wind farms, plus hopefully hitting up Solar Energy UK.
Lots of adventure to come over the next couple of months, that’s for sure!