Solar Power on Eleuthera?

Javan of BEC and Graham of the Island Institute say that the Bahamas has lifted the 50% import duty tax on solar panels, and that the 7% stamp tax still applies. The Institute participates in the Chicago Climate Exchange, selling certificates for offsets from energy efficiencies and cleantech which provide another revenue stream. Without rebates or other incentives, however, solar is still out of reach for most.

As in Colorado and Maine, in Eleuthera I couldn't help but wonder, when are the builders and developers getting on board with sustainable building practices? Just a half-hour drive from the Island Institute, Dave and I walked a long stretch of pink sandy beach and broke inland at The Dunes of Eleuthera, a condomimium development midway under construction. Adorable Eleuthera rental cottages in blues and yellows and greens faced the water, wrapped in tropical landscaping. We were curious about these cottages and the new facilities; the developer smoothed through his pitch. Then I asked the question, the one that tends to set off developers and modular home builders: what is the energy rating of these buildings? Why, little lady, it's an Energy Star-rated home, with R-19 walls and R-11 floors! With central air! He said something about poured concrete forms, but the R-19 and the wood foundation posts didn't quite add up to ICFs or SIPs or even concrete block, the traditional island construction material.

Maybe it was the sun and the sand flea bites. Maybe it was knowing that $400K for a huff-and-puff condo was a travesty. Maybe it was knowing this developer from Louisiana intended to make enough money to retire at 55...that set me off: I work on an Energy Star program and those numbers mean nothing. I'd want at least an R-50. I'd want something that can handle a hurricane, and on a tropical island, I don't need air conditioning. The bride wrapped in a red and orange sarong, on the Island of Freedom, had become a Greek Harpie, stealing civility from the conversation.

Departing from the Governor's Harbour airport, I heard that these Energy Star houses were pre-fab and impounded at the docks by the State for failing to meet standards for tropical construction. I can't substantiate the comment, but impounding unsuitable imported building materials is a reasonable response to developers who build with such little regard for homeowner, investor and the planet.

It was a joy to meet with the folks at Cape Eleuthera Institute and its affiliate organizations who truly understand what sustainability is all about.

Turning to take in one last gulp of Bahamian heaven at the airport, I saw a billboard: Keep Central Eleuthera Clean, Green & Pristine...It Starts with YOU!