What is a zero energy farm / home?
A zero energy farm / home produces as much renewable energy as it consumes over the course of a year, leaving the occupants with a net zero energy bill, and a carbon-free home. We have purposely installed an induction cooktop to not depend on gas and have a solar water boiler for warm water. And now we also have solar panels that produce enough electricity to cover all our energy consumption at the Colmeia, where the Bijen family lives.
We still go a step further. Today it is possible to connect more houses to one single solar system. You simply need 1 postal code for all your energy consumption location. You then make sure you put all the electrical bills on the same name. We have done this for Colmeia, the Eco Lodge (work in progress) and the 2 volunteer houses. And in the future our ecolibrium project will also be included. So this means that all electrical energy used on and around the farm is now covered by 1 solar voltaic system. In Brazil, the rule is that you can build up energy credits that you can use over the course of 5 years. It is good to benefit from this now as these rules might change in the future.
Financing your solar energy system
Also interesting to know is that you can have your solar energy system financed. It is possible that the monthly fee to pay back your financing is lower than the electricity bill. So you save money from day 1. And the best of all is once you are finished paying you only pay a small fee to the electrical company for the infrastructure and for providing continuous electricity day and night. The higher your bill and consumption, the more interesting it becomes to invest in your own solar energy system. This is because the price for a larger system is relatively cheaper than a smaller system. You may ask: what if the system breaks down? Well, you can get insurance. However, quality solar panels are difficult to break and usually function for well up to 25 years. The only expensive replacement is the inverter which needs to be replaced around 12-15 years.
Achieving one essential goal of Eco Caminhos
The achievement of becoming a zero energy home has been one of our main goals since we started in 2015. Eco Caminhos wants to become self-reliant on food, energy and building materials. Energy has now been accomplished, we still have 2 to go. We are now at a rapid pace, planting agroforests for food and wood production, producing eggs, a wide variety of vegetables and have planted over 400 fruit trees. We are already selling our surplus organic food on the market. Next year we also expect to produce milk, cheese and butter. Within 5 years we expect to become 80% self-reliant on food. Within 2 years we will also harvest our first eucalyptus wood. Our hardwood can only be harvested in 15 years but we are planting much more than we consume on the farm. In the meanwhile we are planting between 500 – 1000 trees per year.