Solar Open House at Hickory Ridge

Solar Open House in Roane County Features DIY Solar

On Saturday and Sunday, October 3rd and 4th, a Solar Open House was held at our land trust on a ridge outside Spencer. Robin and Brenda Wilson showed visitors how grid-tied arrangements work, and Robin did a Powerpoint presentation to illustrate many points about solar power. Don Alexander and I have an off-grid system, a short walk away. Both use a yard-mounted array supported by pressure-treated wood, which Don designed and which has been copied by others—information on this can be found here. There is also a copy of the First Steps to Solar speech I gave each group, along with Robin’s Powerpoint presentation. We also talked about passive solar in our homes, and other sustainable living topics, concluding with a walk through our gardens for those interested.

Unfortunately, Saturday was a bit rainy; but we still had 35 to 40 people, thanks in part to publicity by the Sierra Club, OVEC and others. At the last minute we added a second session on Sunday, to which another ten people came. A good time was had by all, or so it seemed to me. Countless questions were answered, and likely several households brought to the threshold of arrangements to install solar. Plans are already in the works to do it again next year, probably at the home of a local doctor who has 24 panels on the same kind of wooden mounts. One point made bears repeating: the 30% federal tax credit for solar installations expires at the end of 2016 unless Congress renews it, so you might want to get it done by then to take advantage!


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The Author

Don Alejandro

Don is a renegade physicist who manages websites for several WV groups from an undisclosed location in the woods near Spencer, WV...


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  1. Thanks for opening up your house to us , I learn a lot

    1. Glad we could help.

      I recall one visitor (can’t remember who) asking about how we could pump water from a 150 foot well with a 115 vac pump (it usually it takes a 220 vac pump for a well that deep). I didn’t think of it at the time, but one big factor that helps is that we pump water into a storage tank (actually 4 interconnected barrels on the second floor of the house) and have gravity feed water to the sinks/shower, so we don’t have a pressure tank, which means the pump does not have to work against the back pressure of the pressure tank.

      Also, we have tiny hole in the water pipe about half-way down the well, which allows it to drain after I pump water (to prevent the pipe from freezing beneath the house). The fact that the line drains means there is less back-pressure the next time the pump has to start (it takes about 5 minutes to pump 50 gallons of water, which I do about 5 minutes every one or two days).

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