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RENEWABLE ENERGY


We are still learning and evaluating, but we hosted an open house doing the spring of 2012 to look at the Renewable energy pieces that we installed on the farm.  We published a booklet for that open house and posted some lessons that we have learned and things that we would do differently if we were to build new.  We have learned that conservation is the cheapest form of energy.  They cannot charge you for what you do not use.

If we were putting in electrical generation again we would put in solar PV.  It has fewer moving parts and therefore less downtime.  On the side hill, our turbines are not accessible to repair in the wintertime which is problematic given our workload in the summer.  The 2012 - 2013 and 2013 - 2014 winters were quite cloudy so the solar heating system did not work well those winters.  It just re-emphasized that insulation and conservation were the cheapest and most effective forms of heating.

Renewable Energy Booklet

Lessons Learned in Installing the Solar SystemSun Explanation

  1. Put adjusting valves to the banks on the inside where possible.
  2. With this type of evacuated tubes, the panels must be tipped to change a tube.
  3. Needed temperature sensors in each bank to be able to regulate the valves properly.
  4. Needed air vents at the high points of the plumbing.
  5. Use second layer of rubber on bottom of tank to protect main layer from damage.
  6. Dust from road gets onto the tubes so they need to be cleaned.
  7. To access enough heat in the summer we need to tip the panels towards the sun. Panels should be able to tip depending on heat requirements and whether brushing off snow.
  8. Panels should have been higher off the ground.
  9. Don’t chintz with insulation.  If you are going to go to the expense of insulating your house, insulate with a couple of layers instead of just one.
  10. Solar heating or hydronic (infloor) heating requires you to think differently.  You don’t manage the heat by turning up the thermostat and expecting instant heat.
  11. Thermal bridging makes it so the building is not insulated to the R value of the insulation.
  12. Our first heat sink should be the floor instead of the tanks. With hydronic heating a storage tank may not be necessary.
  13. Piping that is outside should be in the open as much as possible so that it’s easy to insulate. Ie. On the back side of the posts.
  14. For the bank valves that are outside, use either auto valves related to temperature or else long control shaft valves so they can be adjusted without disturbing insulation and cladding.
  15. Look at potential of using spray foam insulation for insulating pipes.
  16. Need to investigate using flexible copper or steel so that there are not as many fittings.
  17. Investigate price of flexible insulated pipe (EasyFlex) so fewer fittings and less time to insulate.
  18. Snow more likely to fall off on vertical panels and light should reflect off the snow on the ground as well.

Things we would do or consider if we were building a new building:
Different ways to collect solar energy
  1. Install a waste heat recovery system.
  2. Put several drains in basement, not just one so that if water problems the water can drain away.
  3. Investigate building into a hill – some berm construction.
  4. Orient the building to make the most of passive solar heating.
  5. Put windows on the south side, some with trombe walls as heat sinks.
  6. Consider using a masonary stove as both a heat sink and backup.
  7. Use a lagoon rather than a septic tank if possible.
  8. Keep designs simple and logical.
  9. Limit windows on north, west and east side of building to control unwanted heating and cooling.
  10. Insulate to the max.  Walls, attic, under and around foundation.
  11. Build to the size of actual requirements. Reconsider and build smaller.
  12. Ensure thermal bridging is kept to a minimum.
  13. Use Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) if economical.
  14. Hydronic heating installed even if using it isn’t planned right now.
  15. Use roll shutters to cover windows.
  16. Install heat recovery ventilation system.
  17. Install solar panels to provide hot water.
  18. Consider using Plasti-Fabs foundation molds.

We have learned that conservation is the cheapest form of energy.

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Revised: February 14, 2015.
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