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A Study of Light

In my first post I referenced the starting place for evaluating your strategy for becoming carbon neutral, and I bet you were wondering what those answers meant to me in terms of my live/work studio. In this post I will outline the dynamics that governed my thinking as I got started.

The house that I live and work in is a vintage split basement early seventies build in the south west hills of Portland, Oregon. The back of the house faces east and the roof is pitched the right direction for south light all year round. It is also fairly long as well, which allows for a large number of panels to to be installed. This is the good news.

The bad news is the perimeter visibility issues created from the trees in the neighborhood. In the east there is a giant oak tree which impacts the morning sunlight from late spring through early fall. The farmhouse adjacent too it is also three stories in height which delays the onset of good light collection until late morning in the winter when the sun angle is low. There are a couple of mid height (couple hundred feet tall) evergreen trees to the south that impact light harvesting in the mid day in fall and winter as the suns angle lowers. In the west, there are two giant evergreen trees that have a major impact on collection late in the day all year round.

So, while the verdict on my ability to harvest light is tinged with the reality of living in an established neighborhood in a major metropolitan center. The understanding of how these issues impact my ability to convert sunlight into energy allowed for the design of the right solutions. The solution required different thinking about how to solve for being autonomous and "off grid" 24/7 in a northwest climate.

The difference in thinking is this, the system must be designed for the dark days of winter when the sun shines grey, and my ability to collect enough sunlight will be limited for days. Next time around I will outline how we solved for autonomous given the light harvesting dilemmas outlined here.


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