How will the light (and energy) of the sun get into our new home – heating the space, cooking our food, warming the water and lighting the dark places?Maggie planning

The past few weeks were dominated by the question: Where will we place our new solar panels? We thought we had this figured out, but have had to change our plan. Here Maggie is looking north toward the new house site. There are too many oak trees around the house to place the panels on the roof. Maggie was absolutely certain they should not be placed between the dock (ctr-left) and the house site for aesthetic reasons – even though that is the most open area near to the house. The two possibilities that remained were beside the new house in the hazel-brush to the right of the dam or right over Maggie’s head in that space between the oaks and the water. We warmed to this last option as a compromise – except that there was one large oak that stood in the middle of that option.

Solar RackWe made our peace with the beautiful oak and ceremonially took it down. What did we find? This great tree was struggling with rot and would not have stood much longer. Bur oaks are not usually happy right beside water. They like well drained sandy ridges. This came as a great relief to us. Our neighbour Henry helped us make some amazing boards out of a good stretch of trunk that will in some form grace the interior of our home. Thank-you brother oak. You live on.

Here is the stump left behind, giving space to the solar structure. We’ll place the panels in spring.

We were going to tie our solar energy generation into the Manitoba Hydro system so we could benefit from the subsidy Hydro is offering and eventually make money from the relationship. But, once we got a quote from Marc, our electrician – for buried wire and interface equipment – it became clear that the subsidy would not cover the cost of tying to the grid – let alone help us afford the panels, inverter, etc. Long story short, we’re going independent with a battery bank instead of grid-tie. ┬áThis decision made it possible to locate the panels near the new house rather than near to the Hydro pole on the farm yard. I still think grid-tie is an elegant option and am sorry it doesn’t work out for us financially.Solar angle

Our first step, before discussing the location with brother oak, was to determine if we would get sufficient sun through the winter months at that location. I found the tools we needed to do that at

http://www.builditsolar.com/SiteSurvey/site_survey.htm.

Then, we needed to determine what the preferred angle would be for the solar panels. We learned that a 45 degree angle was optimal for a grid-tie system, but that tilting them at a steeper angle to maximize solar gain in winter was better for a stand-alone / battery system. The steeper angle gives us the added benefit of improved snow shedding. Ours will sit at 55 degrees.

Now that the work site is covered in snow, our attention will shift to making some soil test blocks, designing and prefabbing a cold storage structure and preparing all the materials we’ll need to erect wall forms in early spring. For now, I’m enjoying the peace that the first heavy snow offers.

We enjoy questions, comments and suggestions. And feel free to send a link to this site on to friends who might be interested. Blessings.