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UPDATED: Clean Energy Centre explores possible Taupo off-grid housing community

Taupo could be in for a new eco-sustainable housing community, reshaping the way houses receive heat, electricity, water, and use wastewater.

The New Zealand Clean Energy Centre (NZCEC) is currently investigating whether or not this would be feasible.

The community would use geothermal or biomass heat to heat homes; generate electricity from solar and wind sources; and reuse wastewater by drip-irrigating it to energy crops to provide future fuel for the community.

NZCEC said out of 137 people surveyed, 12 responded by saying “I’m in, it sounds like a dream come true,” another 33 said they may relocate to Taupo if the price was right, while another 48 indicated a possible interest. Only 32 percent indicated no interest at all.

“The New Zealand public has demonstrated a keen interest in adapting their lifestyles to live in ways that are friendlier to the environment. They want to do their part to help maintain NZ’s 100% Pure, clean green image, they want to find ways of reducing their energy bills, and they want to increase their control over energy supply security," says chief executive Rob McEwen.

He says the project would benefit  Taupo’s economy, enticing domestic and international migrants, especially Silicon Valley entrepreneurs looking to make New Zealand their home.

McEwen believes the pitch to these potential residents would go something like this:

“Taupo generates 75 times more clean energy than we consume (and thanks to geothermal, that ratio is growing). We have magnificent natural beauty (think of Taupo as the Tahoe of NZ), we have world class fibre optic internet, we have ample water, we are central to 75 percent of NZ’s population, we are home to the NZ Clean Energy Centre and oh, by the way ... Taupo is developing a comprehensive off grid sustainable lifestyle community.”

 He says the next steps are to further quantify interest, then develop the concept to include drawings of the proposed community, a 3D animated walkthrough, and costings.

“We really need to find a developer who’s interested in going down this path and then work with them, alongside Council, to evolve the concept into something that makes sound economic sense for all parties."

One way to make it feasible would be to use  semi-rural land on the outskirts of town so that homeowners' investment in the land would be lower.

"Another way is to negotiate reduced development contributions with council. Unlike a typical subdivision where council needs to put in a lot of infrastructure such as water, waste water, power reticulation and phone connections, none of those services would be required in an off-grid community,” says McEwen.