Who Will Create the First Green Island?

Meanwhile, other Caribbean governments are watching closely. The 10th Annual Caribbean Conference on Sustainable Tourism Development is taking place this month, hosted by Turks and Caicos and the Caribbean Tourism Organization. Starting April 28, travel industry insiders will converge on the Beaches Turks & Caicos Resort & Spa – a Green Globe Certified hotel – to help each other up the learning curve of green tourism.

This artist rendering shows the resort to be built on STAR Island in the Bahamas. Along with a handful of private homes, the resort will run on completely renewable energy. (photo courtesy STAR Island)

STAR Island

And according to designer David Sklar, that curve is a steep one.

"The learning curve is so huge, and there's so much technology that needs to be quantified and researched," he said. "We don't want to see everyone going through the same learning curve that we did. We're all about sharing."

When Sklar first bought STAR Island, he didn't have a plan on how to develop it. Midway into researching the massive cost of setting up power lines and traditional infrastructure so remotely, the idea came to him while watching the film "Who Killed the Electric Car?"

"I thought, 'Why can't I run a whole house on a battery? Or a whole community, and have it be truly carbon neutral?'" he said. "As an architect, I love problem solving."

And so the idea for STAR Island was born.

Sklar couldn't find an existing model for his vision – one that intelligently combines the gamut of green technologies like solar, wind, biofuel and biomass. So he developed his own.

Like the Turks and Caicos, his main goal is to show it can be done.

"It's all about sustainability without sacrifice," he said. "I knew I needed to integrate these technologies into the buildings so they don't appear as afterthoughts. In order for the general public to accept this, it has to be unobtrusive and look great. If it looks good, then it's desirable, and people have to want it in order for this to work."

When complete, the island's 35 acres will be split between 45 single family home lots, which will all receive custom green homes, and a conventional boutique hotel with villas and bungalows. But the entire island will be managed as a hotel.

"Anyone can call at two a.m. to request a bottle of wine and a club sandwich," Sklar said. "We're creating a luxurious atmosphere."

As for the nuts and bolts of how he plans to do it, Sklar says the solution is definitely a blend: "We don't want to be married to any one technology. They're all good at different times and instances."

Ultimately, this cocktail of renewable power sources allows every building on the island to generate all or a portion of its own power, and the idea of metering becomes a moot point.

"When your neighbor's not home, they're creating power for you," Sklar explained. "It's like buying a Ferrari that never requires fuel."

With plans to break ground this year and finish the first buildings in 2009, Sklar is poised to beat both Leo and the Turks and Caicos to that green Caribbean "first." But he insists that's not what it's about.

"It's about facing what I believe is reality: People have to learn how to coexist in the natural environment. We don't need to dominate it, or fear it," he said. "It's about learning to respect it. We want to present a balance, and share the concept with anyone else who wants to contribute."

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