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Solar Power is Political Power

Americans Kathy Guest and Jon Jager live deep in the countryside of Hocking County, Ohio in a solar house they built and designed with environmental principles. They used location and positioning of their home to harness cooling shade in summer and warming sunrays in winter. They opted for a straw bale design that supports local farmers, and they re-used barn beams for their timber frame. Solar collectors provide 40% of their daily energy use. 

Kathy and Jon installing their solar panels Their straw-bale solar powered house

Why have you chosen solar power for your energy?
Jon: I grew up in the country and I had this natural interest in nature. It wasn’t until I was older that it started fermenting in my mind. In Vietnam in 1970 I had a Time Magazine that covered the first Earth Day. The whole issue was on environmentalism with Barry Commoner on the cover. I read through that magazine and it all started coming together for me philosophically and intellectually. That nature thing hit me and then I started realizing there’s a lot of things going on that aren’t good. The way we produce a vast majority of electricity in this country is [one of them.] We never installed solar power in our home with the hopes of getting our money back, it was so we weren’t contributing to the carbon overload. 

Kathy: I’ve always valued [the environment]. I’m politically on the left and the left has always had a greater appreciation for the things that support people in living well. We talked about it so much that we decided we were either going to have to put up or shut up. 

Describe some of the choices you’ve made with regard to energy consumption.
Jon:  With the energy efficient design of our house, our electric bills are not anything to worry about. But we really wanted to do solar to avoid contributing to an energy program that stubbornly continues to ruin the environment in several major ways while at once fighting the development of sensible, cleaner methods. So, against all economic sense, we invested in our 14 solar panel 85 AMP Outback power system. 

What do you appreciate the most about your green lifestyle?
Kathy: It’s beautiful here.
Jon: One of the reasons we call this our dream house is because of the environmental or green aspect of it. We like being an example for other interested people. We just feel good that we did it.

What is challenging about your green living choices?
Kathy: It can be inconvenient being so far from everything. We really have to plan our trips to town. But it’s lovely here and being so far from shopping can be less of a distraction.

Jon: Maintaining all the systems that make this an energy efficient and green home is a constant. The water filter has to be maintained, the composting toilet has to be maintained. Everything has to be messed around with on a regular basis. 

How do others tend to view your eco-conscious lifestyle?
Kathy: We’re "the people with that straw house”…

What advice would you give someone wanting to move toward sustainable living?
Jon: Don’t vote for the Republicans (American), because if you vote for them, you’re voting anti-environmental. 

Kathy: Don’t be afraid to do it. 

Jon: If people would just think energy efficiency and then follow up with action…

Their Solar Panel and Photo-voltaic installation and set-up:
-Unirac flush mount roof racking system for 14 SQ  panels, with clamps
-Outback PS2DC enclosure with 175 amp breaker
-Outback breaker-60 amp
-Outback VFX-3648 pure sine wave inverter/charger
-Outback Conduit adapters, AC wiring extension and DC connections cover for FX
-Outback MX 60 amp charge control
-Outback mate system manager
-Tri-Metric Meter #2020
-48 volt upgrade for trimetric
-Inverter bypass switch—120 volt, 60 amps
-Kwh Meter 240 v. 100 amp, with round base
-2 discover sealed AGM batteries—245AH@20Hr rate 2V dc
-2 inverter cables at 8”
-Battery containment and venting

Installing roof mounted solar panels The solar collectors for their solar power kit

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