Thursday, February 24, 2011

St. Thomas Real Estate Goes Solar

This is a picture of the Federal and local law enforcement buildings in down town Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. The Caribbean Sea is to your immediate left. If you look carefully, you will notice there are solar panels on the roof of both of the buildings.

I noticed the recent addition on the day I was headed to the airport to visit New York just after the snow storms rocked the Midwest and East coast, in early February.

Many things are a little more expensive here in the islands, because they are most often imported, making our cost of living higher than some places. We are generally on par with New York, Chicago and LA.

One basic expense that is higher here than in many places is the cost of electric. Our electrical plan uses oil and it's products to generate our power. The third largest oil refinery in the Northern hemisphere is located on the Island of St. Croix. Besides tourism, the distilling of Rum and the refinery of oil are major revenue generators for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

One thing we have no shortage of and does not have to be imported is sunshine. While the government has recently added solar panels to their roofs, many private citizens have been quietly using solar power to conserve on the use of electricity for some time.

It is not unusual to find homes with panels and storage batteries. Pool water is sometimes circulated so the sun can heat it. You will find pools are smaller and more shallow so they don't get too cold. Beside there is so much warm water in the Caribbean Sea, you don't need a huge pool at home. The Atlantic is much larger and deeper, so it tends to be colder, but on a hot day it can be quite a treat to swim in.

Because we are a territory of the U.S. we also enjoyed the tax incentives to ease the expense of installing solar devices. This created another surge in ecologically conscious home improvements.

the concept of harnessing the wind has not caught on as fast and we are just beginning to see windmills here and there. It may have to do with the occasional hurricane. I think they would give a windmill a hard way to go. I could be wrong on this.

Many people who live in the Caribbean have a tendency to try to live in harmony with nature. A home is not complete without fruit trees or a small garden. Rain and sunshine are blessings to be enjoyed. Homes here have always been designed and situated on lots to take advantage of breezes and to avoid the direct sunlight streaming in during the afternoon when temperatures are the highest.

The first certified "green" home was built on St. Croix last year and there is one under construction on St. John as I write. But, that is a topic for another blog.

For more information on real estate in St. Thomas, visit or give Van Blake-Coleman Realty a call at 340 344 2959.

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