News and Press Releases

The ultimate green home

Posted by: Paul J. Henderson on Tuesday Oct 10, 2009
From the valley floor the new home that recently sprung up in the middle of the bare land on the eastern edge of Promontory is unlike anything Chilliwack has ever seen before.

If all goes according to plan, Solara Homes will be a development with more than 100 single family homes powered primarily--and, depending on the weather, potentially completely--using renewable energy.

"I don't know of any development in Canada that has harnessed the three-source system," said Archie Guvi, a representative of Oasis, the company partnering in the project that is also behind the energy systems to be used.

"All that plus the house uses energy efficiency so it could be a net zero energy-use home."

The homes to be built will use geothermal and/or solar thermal heating systems as well as solar panels and a wind turbine.

The man behind this unique development that, to all outside appearances, looks like any other Promontory project, is 83-year-old Henry Rempel who says he was looking for a way to create, not just another development, but a meaningful legacy on the property.

Rempel is a Chilliwack fixture. His family moved to Yarrow in 1929 and started farming on Chilliwack Central Road in the 1940s. When he was in his 20s, Rempel installed and repaired water mains. He longed for a piece of the valley views accessible from Promontory, and after years of hard work managed to save enough money to buy land. After many years his development is finally taking shape, and while he could have done a conventional project, he's convinced this is the way of the future.

"I know that I'm taking big risks," Rempel said during a tour of the show home last week. "I didn't develop these concepts. I'm employing these ideas, paying to try them out. I'm totally committed over the long haul."

Net zero energy use seems like a lofty goal, but Guvi says it's possible. According to numbers provided by Oasis, the average annual energy consumption in B.C. can range from 11,000 kw/h to 17,000 per year dependent on the heating system. A "highly energy efficient home" may use only 9,493 kw/h per year, while an "advanced energy efficient home" would use little or no purchased energy, the company says. The Oasis Powerhouse--the high-tech "furnace" that powers the house--will produce around 5,400 kw/h per year for electrical consumption from the solar/wind sources. In addition, the geo/solar thermal components will take care of all space heating and cooling energy requirements. Therefore, the company concludes, an energy efficient home with the Oasis Powerhouse installed could reasonably use little or no purchased energy.

"A lot out there is just concept but nobody can actually demonstrate in real life situations," Guvi said. "We are actually demonstraing in real life that it's here."