The  Slickrock water sports resort at Long Caye, Belize  is an impressive example of appropriate technology in action! The island is 35 miles off shore, outside the barrier reef. People live simply here, but they have quite an array of comforts.

Each cabana has a solar-powered light. The cabanas are oriented toward the trade winds for natural cooling breezes — no  AC here! — and no rumbling, smelly diesel generators to provide it.

The kitchen, the largest building at the resort, has it’s own 1000W solar array plus a 400W wind generator.  Since the sea breezes occur most of the time, the wind generator produces quite a lot of power. A bank of golf cart batteries store the power, which runs the house lights, iPod player, a chest freezer, and 2 electric refrigeration units — all on 12V power.  Cooking stoves  and a couple of older refrigeration units run on butane. The low voltage appliances do a great job, while just sipping power — they are designed to be super-efficient, plus have 4” of foam insulation, which is essential in the tropics. There are additional solar and wind systems on the Caye, which run more buildings farther from the kitchen.

Shower water is pumped up to an elevated tank, and flows to the showers by gravity. A 200 foot coil of black poly pipe on the shower house roof heats up in the sun, and a small pump transfers the heated water to the shower tank.

The drinking water at Slickrock is rainwater, which is caught on the tin roofs of several buildings, and stored in large polyethelene tanks. This is the traditional source of drinking water in the cayes.

Between rain storms, the tank inlets are covered. When a big rain moves in, they let the rain clean off the roof for 10 to 15  minutes, until the water runs “sweet,” not salty. Then the inlet covers are removed and the tanks fill. Wash water for dishes and laundry comes from shallow wells, which are fairly good during the rainy season, but become more brackish during the dry season. The wells are about 3’ deep, and water is just a foot or so down.

When you have a water table this high, septic systems are not an option. In the old days, folks on the cayes used outhouses, which tend to be smelly with hydrogen sulfide and methane.    Slickrock has a composting toilet system, which works well and quickly in the heat of the tropics. There is a big fiberglass tank under the toilet building, with large chutes coming up to the pottys. After you do your business, a cup of planer shavings are put down the chute, as a bulking agent. The tank has a vent  fan, and air is pulled through the mass of compost, keeping the organic action aerobic. Aerobic bacteria make water vapor and carbon dioxide, so the process is not smelly, to the amazement of many guests.

At the end of the season, after a rest period, the compost is removed and used to fertilize coconut trees. The compost looks like good potting soil, and is not obnoxious or smelly. The process has allowed the new hybrid coconut trees to thrive and grow quickly. Compost toilets treat the organic waste more thoroughly then septic systems, destroying  pathogens and even viruses well.

The resort is purposely rustic, and reminds many guests of their youthful summer camp experiences, with the addition of a chest cooler full of cold beers and sodas, largely made possible by renewable energy.

 

Our belize vacation packages are only powered by the sun and wind. Slickrock has built an alternative energy system for use on Long Caye as part of our ecologically sensitive policy in developing our facilities. Our ‘rustic’ approach to building our cabins and creating our water and disposal systems are designed to have the least amount of impact to the island’s pristine nature, and our energy systems also conform to this approach.

Our power systems are needed for lighting, communications, recharging small batteries (camera, etc) and for pumping water. The electric system is entirely 12 volt, employing solar panels and wind generators. When we need power for building tools or to recharge our 12 volt system if there is a problem, we do have several small gas powered generators, but these are seldom needed. Since 12 volt electricity cannot be efficiently delivered over long distances, we have set up five different systems on the island to cover our various needs; each system has its own solar panels, batteries, and charge controller, and provide for 3 different water pumping stations, power for our office communications, and lights to all our buildings. Two of these systems also have wind generators to assist the solar panels during stormy periods when there is not enough sun to keep the batteries sufficiently charged.

The 12 volt systems work surprisingly well, and manage to keep up with our energy demands even during our larger trips. And, the benefits of not having to deal with noisy generators, fuel costs and transport, are immeasurable.