Building Luxury Developments off the Grid – Mansion Global

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In a move to curate a high-end and refined living experience, developers globally are more frequently opting to choose a focus for their offerings, from architecture to the unifying philosophy of residents. 
The ongoing push to preserve the environment and fight climate change is making its way into the housing market as a prime consideration well before the construction process. Now, there are elite communities coming online prioritizing the use of alternative energy for environmentally minded buyers as much as location or amenities.
Right on schedule, there are companies emerging to offer heavy installs of greener power options like solar—even to the point of lifting some communities entirely off traditional energy options.
Entero is an Austin, Texas-based company focused on delivering clean and low-cost energy to a variety of communities and businesses.  It’s now possible to take a luxury development entirely off the fossil fuel power grid, managing director Eric Crisler insists. 
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“The solution is typically called a microgrid,” Mr. Crisler said. “It includes energy-efficient buildings, solar energy heat pumps, energy storage and an overlay technology that controls how energy sources and uses work together.”
Mr. Crisler said that with the addition of natural gas generators as emergency backup power in some climate regions, microgrids already serve as solutions for corporations, universities and other large energy users. Substantial luxury developments and golf course communities fall into a similar size category.
While a development can come to Entero looking to put together the total off-grid package, Mr. Crisler explained the company is more often asked about more individual  solutions that achieve a reduction in carbon footprint for a given venue.
“We most often see requisitions for solar electric and energy storage,” he says. “At the large energy user level—as demand increases from EV charging, crypto mining, data centers and other uses—there will be an energy transition to microgrids and traditional grid buildout. Smart integration of technologies and energy sources will allow for clean and low cost energy to be used as much as possible.”
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On the construction side, companies continue to come online with the ability to manage solar builds for eco-conscious communities—while other firms have to adapt and evolve to serve climate change-savvy customers.
Adam Mopsick, CEO of Miami-based Amicon, a real estate consultancy and project management firm, confirms that solar-capability in the building process is essential for his firm and will continue to become more so as green energy options become more the norm.
“Energy-conscious construction has been a growing trend amongst our clients,” Mr. Mopsick says. “It’s not only for the capability of energy independence, but also for significant potential cost savings.”
The tax incentives for panels now outweigh the costs that previously hindered communities and individual home builders from taking the solar option, Mr. Mopsick said. Many homeowners are reimbursed at the same rate power companies charge their customers, while others over-produce for their own needs and end up able to sell power back to the grid.
One high-end luxury community making a large commitment to off-grid solar is the 20,000-acre Santa Lucia Preserve in Carmel, California. Forrest Arthur, the general manager for the Santa Lucia Preserve Community Services District, describes the central mission of the community as “working toward a level of self-sustainability that can last hundreds of years.”
Mr. Arthur says the work of protecting and reinforcing the sustainability of the rolling expanse in Carmel Valley was his primary challenge.
“I came across the answer on a website for Kunde Family Winery in Northern California,” he said. “They used floating solar panels. Developed by French company Ciel & Terre International, not only did the panels offset the winery’s water pumping costs, but they also covered most of their pond, providing the shade needed to slow evaporation.”
“Evaporation control is the real sexy component of floating solar,” Mr. Arthur added. “You’re not only getting power reduction, but you’re also shading the water—a finite resource. We’ve got to find a way to do something different than what we’ve been doing for the last 100 years.”
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He says a small-scale beta version of the strategy was tested on a small pond at The Preserve in 2018 and proved successful. The only obstacle was obtaining a permit from Monterey County as the first installation of its kind in the area. 
The Preserve will soon unveil the completion of its latest project working toward energy independence. The development is installing a $1.5 million, 1,178-panel solar array floating over a major irrigation pond on the property. Installed by Pacific Grove-based Applied Solar Energy, the panels cover eight times the size of the original beta versions, covering 60% of the pond. The project organizers estimate the additional size could save up to 5 million gallons of water from evaporation and will take on 80% of the electricity demand required by the Preserve’s private golf course off the PG&E grid.
Back in Austin with Entero—between projects taking luxury communities, country clubs and other properties off the grid—Mr. Crisler and his team find opportunities to work with underprivileged communities looking to gain more energy independence. 
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Entero develops Community Solar Farms that act as a reduced cost and green energy source for low income housing residents as well as members of the general community.
“Community Solar programs are happening throughout the country,” Mr. Crisler explained. “They’re a concept that evolved as a way to give citizens and businesses that cannot afford solar systems access to clean and lower cost electricity. 
Mr. Crisler said Entero reaches out to low-income housing communities that are in the vicinity of the power plants the company builds.
“We offer them lower cost energy that is green, just as we would to high-end areas,” he added. “Taking these communities off the grid is possible, especially when new construction is involved. It is a solid concept as energy cost reduction is more impactful to low income communities.”
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