Sustainable Tennessee Farmhouse Takes Advantage of Solar Power and Renewable Energy

| 3/26/2010 12:09:35 PM

Editor's Note: John Patrick, Rebecca Selove's husband, contributes to Rebecca's blog series.

Our home was built for solar power. Built on the hillside facing due south, this home was designed to collect solar energy in many ways.

drawing of south-facing sustainable home
The home faces south and allows for maximum sunshine. Drawing By Mark West.

The farmhouse's roof was pitched to allow full sun for passive solar heating in the upper and lower levels during the late fall, winter and early spring. Large windows on the south side allow sunlight in to warm the dark tiles and stained cement floors. In the late spring, summer and early fall, when keeping cool is a priority, that same pitched roof shades those windows and floors.

We also tilted the roof to match the middle Tennessee latitude for maximum solar exposure for our installed solar panels. A photovoltaic system is beginning to make more environmental and economic sense because it provides renewable energy for the home and will probably decrease our electric bill by 60 percent. Our 5.17-kilowatt array connects to the grid so that when we are collecting more solar energy than we are using, the excess energy goes on to the grid for use by others—probably by our neighbors. With incentives from the Tennessee Valley Authority, our excess energy will earn 12 cents more than the prevailing rate of approximately 9 cents per kilowatt. Currently, that means we’ll receive 21 cents for every excess kilowatt we produce.

solar panels
Solar panels provide electricity to the home and solar thermal panels heat the home's water. Photo Courtesy John Patrick.