Water Well - Solar Panels - Wind turbine - Fosse Septique

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Water Well - Solar Panels - Wind turbine - Fosse Septique


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Old 28th May 2013, 11:18 PM
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Default Water Well - Solar Panels - Wind turbine - Fosse Septique

Hi ExPats,
I'm hoping some of you can offer some advice. A friend of mine has recently retired and is looking at buying a 'project' in the Vendee department and has been talking to an immobilier with a property to sell. She has yet to see inside the building, but she has seen it from the outside in the past when she was there. She has always liked the look of this building and she knows and likes the area. Now that it is up for sale she is interested in it and will be going to see it in the next few weeks. The immobilier has sent her some some details - as follows. The building was originally for agricultural use and has been in use until recently as a basic holiday home. It's got 4 rooms including a kitchen of sorts, living room with fireplace and two bedrooms but is really basic and has been unoccupied for some time. It doesn't have mains services nor heating. No evidence of a bathroom or toilet facilities! It comes with 800sq.meters of land and the site is 'non-viabilise' so no mains electricity, water or drains within 200-300 meters.
He describes it as an ideal 'maison secondaire' (agent-speak I suppose!)
I know the 'devil is in the detail' but in general terms, how open are the authorities to off-grid living. My friend is a bit of an old hippy and sees this as a bit of a 'blank canvas' that she could turn into something nice. She would like to put in a well for water supply, some solar panels and maybe a wind-turbine for the electrical supply, and a fosse for foul drains. She likes the idea of a simple, environmentally friendly place to live, the location is apparently very quiet but near two villages and the scenery is beautiful.
Any thoughts on a mad-cap project like this (mad-cap is my descripion, not hers - or the immobilier's!)

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Old 29th May 2013, 06:08 AM
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Your friend should probably check with the local mairie to get a sense of their "leanings" on life "off the grid." We have a guy who lives on a piece of "agricultural" land. Was living in a caravan, eventually set up a portable shed to live in. He runs a big generator to power his lights (and television - apparently he's a football fan).

The mairie has basically turned a blind eye to the project. The guy owns the land (or so I'm told) and managed to live there for a few years (in the caravan) before the town "discovered" he was there. A few weeks back, his caravan went up in flames and we had the pompiers out. The mairie sent one of the adjoints to check things out, and he was supposed to offer the guy a place to stay (hoping, of course, to prevent him from returning). But because of his animals (two sheep, two goats) he refused to leave.

He has run a water line out to the line on the road (about 200 meters from his "house"). And he appears to have a small wood stove in the shed for the winter months.

Net, net, she can probably get away with her plans, but will need to proceed with caution, and make friends at the mairie.
Cheers,
Bev

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Old 29th May 2013, 06:48 AM
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I think that if your friend went into the mairie and discussed the improvements she wants to make to the property, she may well have a positive outcome. Likewise, if she talks to the neighbours she will probably learn about any problems with the terrain that they may have encountered.

It sounds like she is willing to sink quite a bit of money into the property and from the mairie's perspective that means increased tax $$$ which will probably suit them just fine!!

Cheers!

MS

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Old 29th May 2013, 07:24 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BaguetteMan View Post
Hi ExPats,
I'm hoping some of you can offer some advice. A friend of mine has recently retired and is looking at buying a 'project' in the Vendee department and has been talking to an immobilier with a property to sell. She has yet to see inside the building, but she has seen it from the outside in the past when she was there. She has always liked the look of this building and she knows and likes the area. Now that it is up for sale she is interested in it and will be going to see it in the next few weeks. The immobilier has sent her some some details - as follows. The building was originally for agricultural use and has been in use until recently as a basic holiday home. It's got 4 rooms including a kitchen of sorts, living room with fireplace and two bedrooms but is really basic and has been unoccupied for some time. It doesn't have mains services nor heating. No evidence of a bathroom or toilet facilities! It comes with 800sq.meters of land and the site is 'non-viabilise' so no mains electricity, water or drains within 200-300 meters.
He describes it as an ideal 'maison secondaire' (agent-speak I suppose!)
I know the 'devil is in the detail' but in general terms, how open are the authorities to off-grid living. My friend is a bit of an old hippy and sees this as a bit of a 'blank canvas' that she could turn into something nice. She would like to put in a well for water supply, some solar panels and maybe a wind-turbine for the electrical supply, and a fosse for foul drains. She likes the idea of a simple, environmentally friendly place to live, the location is apparently very quiet but near two villages and the scenery is beautiful.
Any thoughts on a mad-cap project like this (mad-cap is my descripion, not hers - or the immobilier's!)
As an ex-solar consultant I can tell you that off-grid living is horrendously expensive in capital investment. You can use a variety of energy sources to generate electricity (solar, wind, water etc) but none of them (possibly water) will give 24/7 coverage so you need back up. The back up is usually inthe form of a bank of storage batteries which are very expensive and require changing about every five years. The last system I configured for off grid (in California) was for a 10kw and the batteries alone were $50,000.

Definitely worth looking at but get ready for sticker shock.
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Old 29th May 2013, 12:22 PM
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Being from South Africa originally I appreciate the value of water and would caution on the assumption that you can dig a well anywhere for water. If she has beautiful views this implies she is on a hill and probably"well" above the water table.

It would be worthwhile checking that out or accepting that a connection to mains water does have advantages...


Tank
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Old 29th May 2013, 08:29 PM
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France is a good place to find this type of "off-grid blank canvas" .... there are lots of them and often in very beautiful locations. Before buying though, it's essential to draw up a list of works that will get the property into at least a minimum state where your friend would be happy to be there. This would include the fosse, heating and electricity as well as a water-tight structure with sound roofing, rewiring and plumbing. Unfortunately labour and materials are expensive in France, and you can't really make an offer for the purchase until you have an idea of the full costs and see if its still such an attractive prospect

On the energy side it's worthwhile looking spending some money on insulation and windows to preserve the heat and at ground-source heat pumps, which have the advantage that unlike sun and wind, they don't suffer from intermittency. Presumably she would want to be on mains water at least, so need to know the cost of that connection

Best, Rick

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Old 30th May 2013, 07:23 AM
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Because we're in a National Park here, above a certain height and in certain locations, NO properties are mains-connected in any way. Most have water-courses and/or springs, most have oil-fired generators for electricity, or are dual-wired for that and 12V battery (emergency) supply (the lucky ones have water turbines if the flow and head of water are sufficient), we all use wood for heating, and phone/TV are via sat dish, and all are on fosses septiques. Gradually, geo-thermal and solar installations are becoming acceptable; wind turbines are NOT because of the local birdlife.

So it's all do-able, depending upon how the Mairie/local by-laws accommodate it. There may even be grants available through ASIL or ADEME (is that right, I think that's right - will check, or someone will correct me).

But, as David says, cost may be ridiculously high. I calculated here it would be about 15 year min. pay-back to install water turbines in my mill-race for 125kW per day constant max output; the costs I reckoned at around 25K, mostly the civil works rather than the electrical hardware. The impediment here was to find anyone who would actually DO the job, even allowing that I & other oick labourers could do some of the donkey-work, so it didn't happen.

I think there's more homework to be done, but, in theory, your friend could be OK (as long as she has deep pockets ).

hils

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Old 30th May 2013, 12:59 PM
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Thanks everyone, lots of common sense practical advice there. Will pass the advice along.

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Old 30th May 2013, 06:23 PM
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Default Some thoughts on hydrogeology

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tanksalot View Post
Being from South Africa originally I appreciate the value of water and would caution on the assumption that you can dig a well anywhere for water. If she has beautiful views this implies she is on a hill and probably"well" above the water table.

It would be worthwhile checking that out or accepting that a connection to mains water does have advantages...


Tank
I agree with Tank -- the local setting will determine if a well is feasible. One of the problems with hilltop properties is that the shallowest aquifer(s) have limited recharge and storage (because of the nature of being on top of a hill) so even if shallow groundwater (read: less expensive well) exists, it may not provide for a long-term sustainable water source for a household. A deeper well may be called for to tap a deeper, more laterally extensive aquifer, but that's more expensive, will cost more in electricity to pump (higher lift) and -- in near-coastal areas such as the Vendée departement, may run a higher risk of encountering brackish if not saline water.

Here's a link to some online information about water resources in the Loire-Bretagne basin:
Système d'Information sur l'Eau du bassin Loire-Bretagne

Click on the "Eaux souterraines" tab and follow the links for more information.

And yes, I'm a hydrogeologist.

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Old 30th May 2013, 11:08 PM
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Thanks for the expert advice Oregon

"And yes, I'm a hydrogeologist" ..... It showed before you said it !

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