Celebrate the culture of agriculture & share skills (Growing! Cooking! Eating!)

Planning for Solar Panels, part one

Planning for the solar panels/greenhouse has begun….I came home last week to find two men sitting in my back yard, contemplating the blue wall. One had a notebook, the other a tape measure. They were discussing building code.


We began thinking about solar panels last winter, when we went to a presentation, not because we were interested, but because we wanted to think about something positive in town for a change. But, after hearing about the rebates, and looking at our electric bill, I was intrigued. We would not need a huge array to produce all of the electricity we use over the course of a year, especially if I took down a string or two of Christmas lights. We average 8 KWH per day. I called Abundant Solar, Kirk came out with his solar gain measuring tool from the 1970s, and he studied the west facing roof of the house. Not great…then he wandered into the back yard and eyed the blue painted wall of our neighbor’s garage. “Are you thinking,” he mused, “of adding any more buildings back here?” Why yes, we were. I had plans for a green house in that space. He nodded, climbed on ladders, examined tree shadows, glared at the huge yellow plum in the middle of the yard, and began to plan.


A few weeks later, we had generated a list. The structure should:

  • Generate all of our electricity over the course of the year.
  • Provide a warm place to start all of our seeds, raise chicks in the awkward stage (too big for house, too small for coop), and shelter the beehive in cold winters.
  • Extend the growing season—eggplants and hot peppers? Salad greens in winter? A citrus tree? A tea plant or two?
  • Hold the soaking tub and provide a nicer place to bathe.
  • Allow Mark to read outside and stay warm in the winter.
  • Not mess up the already existing eating area in the nook of the house and garage.
  • Look nice. I’d like the roofline to echo the shed’s interesting overhang.


Once we had the list and had paced around the backyard for a few hours, we called Mark Meyer, our builder, who is a genius at taking my vague ideas and turning them into beautiful structures. He was one of the men sitting in my backyard, contemplating the wall a few days later.  He had a sketch of a bayfront greenhouse that would sit under the panels, shifted to one side of the wall, before he went home to investigate building code. Just how close could we come to that garage? We should know on Tuesday.


Meanwhile, we have begun to assemble various parts. Mark found a pile of double paned windows in aluminum frames on Craig’s List for one hundred dollars. “It looks like a good deal,” he told me. When I followed up, the seller had found three more, and threw them in for the same price. We now had a pile of windows for the walls.
I then contacted a friend who had mentioned a staff of claw foot tubs—and yes, they have three in the backyard. I am welcome to one, also for one hundred bucks. Planning has begun.







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Comment by Emily Eagan on May 11, 2015 at 10:03am

Exciting plans! Thanks for sharing, Charlyn!


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