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Off the Grid?

SELF-SUFFICIENT: The Sky development in Clarksville will be a proving ground for energy-conserving technology.
A team of developers and scientists aims to create an energy-efficient, environmentally progressive community called “Sky” on 571 forested acres near tiny Clarksville in Calhoun County.

Amelia Island developer White Starr Inc. plans to cluster 624 homes in walkable neighborhoods. Each cluster will share heating and cooling systems and a solar power system, says David Cartes, of Florida State University’s Center for Advanced Power Systems, which is participating in the project. Construction could begin in early 2008. “We’ll build 25 homes the first year as a test case, then analyze the quality of design and improve for the next cluster,’’ says Cartes. The community possibly could be “off-grid,’’ unconnected to power lines from a utility.

The 10-year project will act as a proving ground for energy-conserving technology, with the help of a three-year, $1.8-million grant from Florida’s Renewable Energy Technologies Grant program, shared by White Starr, Kore Consulting Group of Atlantic Beach, FSU and the University of North Florida. White Starr principals, architect/president Julia Starr Sanford and real estate developer Bruce White, also got design input from new-urbanism planners Duany Plater-Zyberk & Co. of Miami.

The development will feature horse-riding trails and orchards but also will incorporate amenities such as tennis courts and spas. Home sites, from courtyard lots to two-acre farm villas, will each include a garden, says Sanford. The land on which the development will be built was a flower farm for nearly 100 years. Many acres have reverted to cypress wetlands and pine forests; all 105 wetland acres will be preserved and another 154 acres kept as agricultural land.

Graphic: Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE)

Energy-Saving Designs

  • Solar: Solar roof designs feature centralized battery storage.
  • Efficiency: Insulation, glass treatments, lighting and appliances will minimize electrical load requirements.
  • Geothermal: Sky homes will use a geothermal heat pump system (right), which takes advantage of constant temperatures below the ground’s surface. The pump uses 25% to 50% less electricity than conventional systems.