Monday, July 7, 2008

Richard Branson developing Caribbean eco-resort

The ever-innovative Sir Richard Branson, Chairman of the Virgin Group, is setting his sights on yet another foray into sustainable business: eco-resorts. The man who has recently made headlines with his developments in bio-fuel flights and space-ports is planning to create twenty exclusive villas as well as a beachfront restaurant on the new "Mosquito Island", which he says will be the most environmentally-friendly resort in the world.

Plans for the resort include energy power from wind turbines and solar panels, with the buildings designed to utilize local wind patterns so as to avoid the need for air conditioning. All the food will be come from local, organic sources and all motorized transport will be powered by biofuels.

Branson's British Virgin Islands, he hopes, will serve as a model for other resort destinations throughout the Caribbean to move toward clean and renewable alternatives to carbon fuels, and that rising oil prices are a catalyst for governments to develop more environmenal and sustainable projects for the future.

"It is actually inexcusable for the Caribbean to need to use dirty fuels anymore when it has all these natural resources on its doorstep," said Branson, as quoted by Business Week. "We've managed to prove on paper and now we'll prove in reality that the Caribbean could run with the determination of governments on solar and wind. There is no need to continue using dirty fuels."

Currently, the site of this latest venture is an uninhabited "speck" off the island of Virgin Gorda.

Branson is partnering with several alternative energy consultants on the Mosquito Island project, including Ken Kao, a Boston-based architect and lecturer at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design. "The renewable energy sources of sun and wind are very promising," Kao said. "The islands receive significant solar radiance and extensive winds."

Although the development is in its earliest stages, British Virgin Islands government is said to so far be keen on the idea.

"They are trying to go green and be environmentally friendly with every aspect of the project. That's definitely very good for the B.V.I. because we're such a small set of islands," said Dylan Penn, the planner coordinating the government review of the resort project.

Earlier this year, Branson's Virgin Atlantic carried out the world's first flight of a commercial aircraft powered with biofuel in an effort to show it can produce less carbon dioxide than normal jet fuels. The flight was partially fueled with a biofuel mixture of coconut and babassu oil (from a type of palm nut) in one of its four main fuel tanks.

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