Mini Series Part 4: Powered by Electricity?

May 13th, 2010 by Tim Delhey Eian

Yes, the Passive House in the Woods home is powered by electricity; and yes, electricity is predominantly a dirty fuel in this country—mostly generated by burning coal. However, electricity is a universal fuel that will likely prevail when other fuels become unfeasible. In addition, it can and is being generated in many different ways. Some of these options are NOT dirty at all and one of these cleaner options is photovoltaic power made with the help of solar panels.

Passive House in the Woods, footing for solar tracker

Pouring a footing for the solar tracker

PV Tracker

PV tracker similar to this project

Gary decided to use solar electricity and generate it on site with the help of a solar tracker as well as a fixed array of panels on the roof top terrace. Sized and engineered by Energy Concepts, these two systems are projected to make 6,750 kWh of clean electricity per year. The home is currently projected to use only a total of about 4,200 kWh—including Gary’s household electricity. This means that the building will become a solar power plant—making more energy than it consumes.

Backside of PV tracker

Backside of PV tracker

According to the energy model we used, any carbon emissions generated by an average fuel mix used by the utility (meaning electricity made from some portion of coal, gas, nuclear, and renewable resources) will be offset by the electricity provided by the solar panels. This works without batteries. The power grid essentially becomes the battery. The home will consume solar power first if it is available, and use grid-supplied power when it is not. Whenever it makes electricity it will feed it back into the power grid for consumption.

Passive House in the Woods, pedestals for the PV system

Pedestals for the PV system

PV panels

PV panels similar to this project

We are installing an energy monitoring system in the home to measure both the incoming and outgoing amounts of electricity. This will allow us to verify the energy calculations, and Gary to understand how his lifestyle affects the overall performance of his power plant.

Tomorrow: Indoor Environmental Quality

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