Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sustainable Energy Proposal and much more!

We received the Sustainable Energy Proposal from Jen Rolston from BAUER POWER. Solar Thermal panels and PV panels are definite (the number of panels to start with needs to be evaluated; a wind turbine needs further evaluation, since wind tends to be fair to below average in southeastern Michigan.  We are considering renting or buying an anemometer to measure the wind for an extended period of time.  When we met with Bob Brown, he was optimistic about our site for both Wind and Sun and we got some great ideas from him.  We sent him our current monthly energy use in our current home. (Our annual electricity usage is about 5000-6000 KWH, which does not include our natural gas furnace and hot water heat)  He is recommending 2.4K wind system on a 60-foot tall mono pole, and a 3K photovoltaic solar system.  The estimated combined annual electricity output would be about 7000-8000 KWH.  He sent us specs on the two wind turbines that he is recommending along with specs on his other recommendations.

 Our neighbor right across the road (see more on him below) is an excavator that has lived there for a long time and says that we have the second highest site in Washtenaw County.  The highest site is U of M's Peach Mountain Observatory, just a couple miles up the road from where we currently live; we could also get wind data from them.  He also said that the topography there tends to create a wind tunnel effect.

 ONE OF THE BEST IDEAS FROM BAUER THAT WE WOULD LIKE TO PURSUE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE:  We would like to have Adam build a barn/shed that is multipurpose; it would be used to install solar panels prior to building the house so that we can use the electricity generated for building the house; it would also provide a site where items can be locked up during the building process.  It would be located between the house site and the garden site. 

We also have some work in our current home that we would like to hire Adam/his crew to do to get it ready for new homeowners or renters. 

Our new next-door neighbor to the north (works for Recycle Ann Arbor, and was a builder and excavator when she was younger) is still offering Adam a place to stay when he comes down, and possibly a place for others to stay as well.  WE TOO ARE OFFERING OUR HOUSE FOR THIS PURPOSE. 

We also met with LOTUS LANDSCAPING (Ann Arbor) several times regarding a master plan and we are very comfortable with working with them.  They will create a master plan once we have an exact siting of the house and barn/shed.   

Coincidentally, Lotus actually tried to buy our building site for their business a year prior to us buying it.  The neighbors did not want a business there and blocked the purchase; lucky for us!  They still have a good relationship with the neighbors including the excavator neighbor who came over and met with us when Lotus met us at the site.  The excavator neighbor has a good relationship with Lotus, and he has a good relationship with many contractors in the area. He is ready to bring in the crushed concrete for the driveway and the open shed when we give him the go ahead.  We will need to put a culvert in the lowest spot and think ahead about location relative to our plans of having a small pond in that low area.   

ANOTHER INTERESTING COINCIDENCE:  Meeting our excavator neighbor for the first time was very interesting; He is about 15-20 older than I am and grew up in the same very small rural community (Dixboro) just outside of Ann Arbor that I did, and knows many of the same people and families that my parents and I know well.   He is a great guy and has many local connections and is liked and respected by many in the area.  He will be a great help with our project and none of his equipment will need to be trucked in. 

Mary and I went to the Home Building and Improvement Show at the Washtenaw County Farm Council Grounds about a month ago and got lots of good ideas.  We met DOUG SELBY from Meadowlark Builders that do green building in the Ann Arbor area.  I think he knows (or knows of) Eric and/or Adam.  He was very enthusiastic and supportive of what we were doing. 

We have contacted my brother-in-law (Certified Arborist, wood-worker, in VA) and we hope to get down to VA this summer to work with him to cut plenty of trim and buy the custom made trim from him. 

We have purchased 110 evergreen seedlings (4 varieties) from the Washtenaw County Soil Conservation District and planted them on our "Recycle Ann Arbor neighbor's"property. We mulched them and she will water and protect them from the deer this summer since we have no well yet. 

We need to determine when and where we will put in the well.  I would like to "witch" the well, like we did for the property that I grew up on. 

I have done a small amount of mowing out at the site making a walking trail along the evergreen trees that line the edge of the property, and a small trail that marks the edges of where we placed the stakes for the topo survey, and stakes to mark the approximate house and garden and garden shed locations. (See the photos)

(Left and Below-View facing southeast, mowed rectangle just behind large evergreens, and in front of row of smaller evergreens is the SE corner of property where we plan to put the vegetable gardens and shed.  On the left side of the photo you can faintly see the mowed line that is the area were we did the topo survey inside of which will be the footprint of the house)

(Below-Again facing southeast corner of the property, but pic is taken standing on general site of house footprint)

(Below-View facing east from the road.  Mowed lines running NE and SE show the general NW and SW boundaries inside of which will be the footprint of the house (which may look something like the drawing to the right that I did; the side facing you in the drawing would be facing southeast toward the garden area.  In the very left hand corner of the pic is the highest spot where we hope to put the wind turbine.  It is 17 feet above the lowest spot which is in the pic to the left by the truck)

Two pics below are facing NW, and show the general location where we plan to put the drive which will exit the road behind the existing open shed travel south behind the shed, then cut east along the south edge of the shed which will be just up the hill from the existing shed.  This shed already makes a great place to keep straw and mulch dry!

The two pics below are the front and back of the existing open air shed.  The one on the left facing east and is taken from the road.  The one on the right is facing west and is taken from the highest spot on the property where we hope to put the wind turbine! 


  1. Hi, this is Adam, the Hybrid Home Guy. I want to let everyone know how excited I am to be part of this great project.

    The Team is looking forward to coming to the Ann Arbor area and to meet news friends while we build one of the planets most sustainable houses.

    The homeowners and many neighbors have been so open to our arrival and to stay with them, and that is amazing. I can not tell you how great that makes me and the Team feel. Thank you!

  2. Hi everyone,
    I see you are planning on doing Solar and Wind, but have you all looked into geothermal? I would be curious to hear the pros and cons specific to your site.

    Also, I assume passive solar will be a main component?

    I have been spending a bit of time helping with the Virginia Tech Solar Decathlon team, which competes in an international mobile solar house competition (the houses will be setup on the mall in Washington, DC. for the competition --

    I look forward to seeing how your house develops. Oh, have you all heard about straw bail walls?

  3. Looking good! I like your plans with all the RE. Did you know that there is an instrumented tower at the Chelsea Proving Grounds? They have been collecting wind data for about a year now at 50, 60, 70 and 80 meter altitudes. It was put up to study wind potential in our neck of the woods. The data is publicly available at:
    I was considering wind for our site but decided at 11 to 12 MPH average, PV was a better investment. The power available from the wind is a cubed relationship to the wind speed. I was looking a one unit that was rated at 1.5 KW in a 14 m/sec (31 MPH) wind but, when I ran the numbers, it could only put out about 50 watts in a 10 MPH wind. Ahh well...

    I'll have to come by some time and have a look!

    -Klaus Wolter