The Green Scene

Green homes in Fletcher’s future

A mixed-use development planned for Fletcher may raise the bar for green design. With plans for 1,600 solar panels, the 400-unit Rivercane Village is positioned to become the largest residential application of solar-thermal energy nationwide. Plans call for solar technology to provide 80 percent of the community’s hot water, heating and cooling needs—the bulk of any building’s energy consumption. A portion of the 38-acre parcel was once a runway at the former Asheville Airport. On Jan. 14, developer Tom Ryan cleared his first hurdle: The Fletcher Town Council voted to rezone the property for residential use.

Home green home: A New Urbanist development slated for the Cane Creek Industrial Park in Fletcher will set a new standard for green building.

“This concept is not new,” says Scott Clark of Appalachian Energy, a solar-panel manufacturer based in the Fletcher Business Park, adjacent to the property. Clark’s company is plunking $2 million into Rivercane to make the solar infrastructure feasible on such a large scale. This will enable Ryan to install solar technology without shouldering the up-front cost; residents will pay a monthly charge for their energy use.

Rivercane, says Clark, is modeled after similar complexes in Europe. Besides solar hot water and space heating, solar adsorption chillers using chilled water as a refrigerant will be used in place of conventional air conditioners. The technology is currently in use in just seven locations nationwide, notes Clark.

“We’ve also set out with the ambitious goal of making green affordable,” says Ryan. “It’s easy to build luxury green town homes. But through partnerships like the one we’ve established with Appalachian Energy … we are working very hard to produce a product that’s within reach of the majority of the folks out there.” A preliminary price list shows that many of the units will qualify as work-force housing under federal guidelines.

Plans also call for placing about 18 acres into a conservation easement with the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. After walking trails have been created, the land will be given to the town of Fletcher as part of its greenway system. An extensive storm-water filtration system will protect nearby Cane Creek.

The first Rivercane residents could move in as early as the beginning of 2009, says Ryan, but he says he’s already received positive feedback. “I think there’s a lot of sensitivity to development in general,” he observes. “And our concern was that at some point, someone was going to raise the question do we need more development? But that depends on what you’re asking. Do we need more master-plan gated communities? Probably not. Do we need work-force housing in key areas that can benefit industry and business and the folks that work here? Absolutely.”

Visit www.rivercanevillage.com or www.appalachianenergy.com for more information.

Students lead climate change teach-in

“If there’s no action before 2012, that’s too late,” Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said recently. “What we will do in the next two to three years will determine our future. This is the defining moment.”

At least some Americans are taking the message seriously. Focus the Nation, a mainly campus-driven effort, aims to raise awareness about climate change. Billed as the largest global-warming teach-in ever, the Jan. 31 event will be spread across more than 1,000 universities, businesses and places of worship across the country. Locally, UNCA, Western Carolina University and Warren Wilson College all plan to host Focus the Nation activities.

The UNCA events will include a series of panels led by faculty members and community leaders. Asheville Mayor Terry Bellamy, Transportation and Engineering Director Cathy Ball and former Planning and Development Director Scott Shuford, among others, will take part in a panel discussion titled “City of Asheville’s Commitment to the Planet.” Another panel, “Energy Options for Our Future,” will feature UNCA environmental studies professor Dee Eggers and representatives of the N.C. Utilities Commission and the renewable-energy sector.

“We’re hoping to draw community members, not just students, with these events,” notes Adam Macon, a UNCA senior who’s helping organize the forums through Active Students for a Healthy Environment. There’ll also be “energy tours” of campus buildings such as the Sam Millar Facilities Management Complex, a green building powered by renewable energy. That evening, UNCA students will host an ‘80s dance party “for an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse gases,” Macon explains.

Visit www.focusthenation.org or http://orgs.unca.edu/ecology to learn more.

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