Getting off the grid

Building a solar-powered water system

We have a pond at the bottom of our property.  It’s a great water source for watering the gardens, but we couldn’t get the water uphill to the gardens without a pump.

Our solution was to install a solar water pump.  Two 85-watt solar panels directly power a ShurFlo submersible pump with no batteries.  When it is sunny the pump pushes pond water over 200-feet up the hill to a storage tank for irrigating our organic gardens.  This also powers water flow for the fountain of youth which is next to the waterslide of death.  The fountain doubles as a watering trough for our flock of black sheep and llamas, and we now lay claim to the highest solar powered waterslide in the world… although it can be quite cold.

Black Sheep Inn has researched and designed a hybrid solar/wind electric system, which we were able to partially finance with the prize money from winning the Smithonian Magazine/Tourism Cares for Tomorrow – Sustainable Tourism Award in the Conservation Category.

After having monitored electrical use since 2003, Black Sheep Inn has lowered electrical use from an average of 12.5 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day to about 11 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.  All light bulbs on the property are compact fluorescents.  Most light switches are labeled advising guests to conserve energy.  On average there are 20 people (including guests) living at the Black Sheep Inn fulltime. Currently all cooking and heating of water for showers is done with propane.  Additionally there are plans to add solar hot water heaters and bio-gas digesters to offset propane consumption. 7 to 8 kWh can be saved daily by replacing four 110-volt electric refrigerators with more efficient propane powered refrigerators.  We have already replaced desk top computers with laptops and electric coffee makers to stove top percolators.

Electrical consumption
Current Daily Electrical Use 11 kWh
Replacing 4 Refrigerators saves -7 kWh
Total Electrical Energy Needs 4 kWh

This leaves us with approximately 5 kWh per day!!!  Although this is LOW, we are going to design our hybrid solar/wind system for 6 kWh per day… this capacity will compensate for power tool use and the expansion of electric installations.

Items to purchase Cost Total
4 propane refrigerators $ 1600 $ 6000
3 laptop computers $ 800 $ 2400
12 110-watt solar panels $ 300 $ 4500
Wind Generator $ 1500
two 12-volt battery banks $ 2800 $ 5600
Inverter/Charger – 4000 watt $ 4300
wiring, mounts, fuses $ 1500
Labor $ 1500
Shipping $ 7000
Total $31,900

Black Sheep Inn has been recognized for it’s excellence in conservation, ecological practices, community work and sustainability.  Innovative designs for construction and business practices have made the Black Sheep Inn a leader in ecotourism.