California Dream: A Photovoltaic System Solarizes a Home

Casey Coates Danson believes in saving the planet, one photovoltaic panel at a time. Her own home—the largest residential solar installation in Los Angeles —is just one more example of how chic and easy solar living can be.

| November/December 2002

“Watch out for the house mascot,” Casey Coates Danson warns as Aggie, a white Great Pyrenees-Husky mix the size of a miniature horse, comes lumbering up to issue a warm welcome. Ziggy, the gray tabby, briefly raises his head from a nearby ottoman, assesses the guest, and then closes an eye.

It’s easy to envy these animals’ living space. For the founder and president of Global Possibilities, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the use of renewable energy, this “dream house” is the ultimate showcase, proving that solar-powered homes can be both elegant and convenient.

Casey began to envision her home several years ago when she realized that her two daughters (Kate, twenty-three, and Alexis, eighteen) would soon be ready for homes of their own. In her quest to downsize, Casey combed the network of canyons that filter through Los Angeles and found an acre on a wooded hillside that featured stunning cliff-side views.

Given Casey’s involvement with Global Possibilities, her definition of a dream house is one that generates its electricity needs directly from the sun. (Two solar-powered residences that she designed appeared in Natural Home’s January/February 2000 issue). To accomplish this goal, she rebuilt and expanded upon the existing 3,600-square-foot home by thickening walls to allow for better insulation and replacing the east-west oriented roof structure with more solar-friendly south-facing roofs.

An affordable option

Working with Steven Strong of Harvard, Massachusetts-based Solar Design Associates, Casey designed a 4,500-square-foot residence and adjacent 500-square-foot addition to the existing two-car garage that incorporates sixty photovoltaic (PV) panels mounted on a series of interconnecting pitched and gabled roofs. The result is a property that is 95 percent solar-powered (including the private gates at the base of her driveway, a solar-heated 10-by-42-foot infinity pool, and the studio that houses Global Possibilities’ office space).

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