Bill Edsell of Ventana Bay Resort on the Best House Orientation, Solar, Septic and Water in Baja California Sur
From an interview in early July, 2016 by Jet Metier with Bill Edsell, pioneer, innovator, and proprietor of the Ventana Bay Resort.
Jet: I there any innovation that you’ve learned over time regarding the best way to situate a house in La Ventana?
Bill: Well, yeah. It’s pretty simple here. You want to face east for the view obviously and this nice breeze we’re getting today. They also face the way they do because of the north wind in the winter. In the winter, you can actually be in fleece, even in the day down in the beach. It may be a high of 65 degrees, but when you’re in a tropical climate that somehow just feels cold.
Over the last few years it hasn’t been that cold, but I remember wearing a sweater; you’re in full fleece jackets and pants. Yeah, it’s nice. It’s great for sleeping but you don’t want to be sleeping in that wind, which can average daily probably 20 miles an hour and it can blow up to 30 or 40.
It’s a steady wind that can even blow all night when we get these frontal winds. It’s noisy, and it’s cool. You don’t want to be sitting in that wind. It’s a completely different season. You want to create patios on your south side to get out of the wind and sit in the sun. In the summer you’re running from the sun, but in winter you want to take your coffee and sit in the sun and warm up. The houses are situated to protect against the north wind and the west wind, but want to be exposed to the east wind because this is summer wind, which cools you off. It’s fairly simple.
Taking into consideration where the sun is decides which areas to insulate. Insulate east, west, maybe north. You don’t have to insulate the south side. If you know the weather it’s pretty simple.
Jet: You have land and people have bought your land. Is there an advantage to buying from someone like you who’s been here for a while? I’ve heard that you have electrical connections and some of these other plots don’t have electrical.
Bill: A bigger bonus would be buying into a community like we talked about earlier where you have shared gardeners, shared house cleaners, shared security—things like that that can really keep your cost down and help to insure that you have a reliable gardener, house cleaner, and security.
Getting connected to electricity depends where the land is. Solar is a good way to go. A lot of people don’t do it here if they don’t have to. Our resort is all solar as well as all the homes in our land around us. However, now most the homes have gone off of solar, because the government is providing power at such a reduced cost; it’s ridiculous.
Jet: What about the maintenance of solar and having to change it out, it wasn’t a problem?
Jet: What about the reliability of solar when you had solar?
Bill: I still have it. I have my main inverter for 12 years. The batteries are probably the trickiest thing. You have to wash your panels off when it’s really windy and the dust blows. This has to be regular; once a month.
We don’t need batteries any more because we we’re tied to the federal company so right now, we’re spinning the meter back. But we keep the batteries, too, because the power still goes out from time to time. It’s not as bad as it used to be but it still on occasion goes out and in hurricanes you can lose power for 10 days. So I keep the batteries. It’s almost not worth of the cost of batteries. It might be even better to buy generators for the emergencies.
My friend has technology now whereby his phone can check everything. They can see every minute what their systems are doing. But people don’t use solar here because of the cost. If you have a simple house, you’re going to pay $30 a month for electricity, so with a bill like that, how can you justify buying solar? However, if you’re going to live here on a long-term basis, I would go with solar definitely because power will not stay cheap. When you look at your electricity bill, they show they’re paying 75% of your bill. Why? I don’t know. But they’re not always going to do that. They’re looking at ways to move away from that. If you’re usage is commercial like we are, you’re in a much higher rate, so then it’s a no brainer.
bJet: What about septic?
Bill: You can get individual treatment plants in different sizes depending on the usage. We’ve had them for years and all the houses in the resort and have never have a problem.
The cost is around $600. The sewage goes into the tank through a filter (no motors) and then it comes out. We use that water for irrigation. It has a little bit of an odor, but not too bad. I wouldn’t put it in front of the rooms because of the wind. This big tree in the back got big because it’s sitting right on a drainage area. So I just put a French drain, which is just rocks. You put rocks in to let the water soak into the ground. But you can take that water and you can drain it into a storage tank and then from that storage tank you can pump that water wherever you want. Because I have so much of a slope on this property, I don’t have any pumps. I use gravity for everything. All my kitchen water is going on these trees. I use the shower water from people’s rooms. I use every drop of water I can use. It’s pretty simple. So sewage is not a problem. And no, you don’t have to pump it on the bay. You’re not allowed to do that.
Jet: What about water itself?
Bill: Water is a problem. It’s expensive right now because you have to buy it in truckloads. But there is plenty of fresh drinking water here. It’s just that they don’t seem to know how to move it.
Jet: What do you mean there’s plenty of water here?
Bill: Los Planes (an area about 5 miles away) has lots of water and all that valley, all the way up, there’s water moving down there most of the year underground. There’s a tremendous amount of water. And up here, you can go up here in the back canyons and you’ll find water right now.
Bill: Yes. There are hot springs. There’s water coming out underground. That’s fresh water, you know. So there’s plenty of water.
They constructed this desalination plant that they don’t use. We talked to the water guy the other day, who told us they wanted to put in another desalination plant out here. They use a lot of power and they discharge a lot of salty water, so they’re not the greatest thing for environment. If you have to use them, you have to use them, but we don’t have to. They could easily put in wells up here in the mountains and not even have to pump it. Just gravity feed it.