EL CHALTÉN — Using alternative energies to cut costs and protect the environment has been an objective pursued in various areas, with plans in many residential compounds to install solar panels or reuse rainwater. These ideas may go further in Argentine Patagonia, with a residential project that plans to generate wind energy for the compound and the surrounding area.

This is the KoiKosten project, to be built on 5,000 hectares of land beside Lake Viedma and with views onto the nearby Mount Fitz Roy and the Viedma glacier. It is an area without electricity or gas supplies.

The development will comprise of 300 plots with lake views, each measuring between 3,000 and 4,000 square meters, and set to contain a home of 150-300 square meters with a wind turbine. Developers are giving buyers a choice of designs "on the basis of their priorities, that is energy-generation capacity, functionality and home design."

A home with this technology can produce up to five times the energy it needs

Carlos Manuelides, a Patagonian businessman, set up a partnership with constructors Tango Winds for this project: "60% of our territory, especially Patagonia, has ideal winds to generate wind energy. We have this enormous privilege but we're not using it. The wind is there and it is free, we just have to catch it and make it ours."

In areas with the right winds, like Santa Cruz, "a home with this technology can produce up to five times the energy it needs," Manuelides says. "We are talking about a property that can easily become self-sustainable and will even have excess to supply neighbors' needs, or for other activities that also require energy. With this system, we want the owner to hold the key to the energy business," he says.

The neighborhood will develop in two stages. In the first, the complexes will become holiday or weekend homes, while the second stage foresees construction of permanent homes and an area for developing productive and industrial activities to be powered with energy generated here.

Lake Viedma — Photo: Liam Quinn

The wind turbines, with a circular, aerodynamic design, will be on the roof to make the most of winds, though home interiors will follow standard domestic designs, on one or two floors. The development is intended to be a departure point for the entire zone, which is not reached by the electricity grid or other sources of energy.

Home prices start at US$180,000, but go up depending on design and plot size. The developers may provide some financing. No plots are currently for sale, and readied homes are expected to go on the market in 2021. Manuelides says this is not just a residential compound but "a new area of competition, because we are projecting not just a residential destination in a natural paradise, but also the possibility for people to live and work in a place they've dreamed of, generating their own power and ensuring extra income by selling excess output. All in the framework of an ecosystem that assures them quality of life."

Manuelides stresses all the construction technology and materials are Argentine. He said the project would contribute to "productive and industrial enterprises" locally and use "clean and sustainable energy" to boost local development. The KoiKosten project could in time be replicated in other parts of Santa Cruz, he said, like Lago Argentino, Lago Buenos Aires or Lago Posadas.

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