Neal Creek Farm
Franklin County, Tennessee


Sunshine Cottage
Learning to Live Off Grid in Tennessee
(photos down the page)

Sunshine Cottage is our project for learning to live with less energy and with energy generated mainly by sunshine using solar panels and perhaps a micro-turbine powered by the running water in Neal Creek.  Our energy future is all about renewable sources.  We are on the learning curve now.

We had a local family owned business who builds very well constructed prefabricated storage sheds and barns build the cottage which was delivered to the farm on May 16, 2007.  It was delivered as a finished on the outside unfinished on the inside building with upgraded low E argon filled windows and insulated steel doors.

The cottage is 14 by 32 feet and will have a full size bathroom, a private bedroom large enough for a queen size bed and a combination kitchen, dining, living room.  Over the bed-bath-kitchen area is a low headroom loft 14 x 16 feet which will provide room for storage, a private sleeping space for guests and a world of adventure for the grand kiddos.

At 448 square feet of main floor and 224 square feet of loft, the cottage is pretty cozy.  But, we have a friend who lives in London in the UK who said, "The cottage is quite large compared to my London flat."  Marine architectural design features will help.  No space goes wasted.  McMansion owners could use a few lessons?

At the moment, Sunshine Cottage is sitting on blocks in a temporary location beside the creek where you can sit in the living area with the windows open and watch the creek go by as well as hear the music of the stream as it falls over rock shelves, rocks and boulders.

Before the end of 2007 (scratch that date, the cottage made it to the permanent foundation on August 18, 2011) the cottage will be relocated to a permanent foundation.  The reason for the early delivery is so that we can have a place to crash at the farm while we are working on the garden and the never ending clean-up of 18 acres that have been neglected for at least 20 years.

The other reason for the early delivery is the opportunity to begin experimenting with photo voltaics ( PV or solar panels) and low voltage everything from lights to refrigeration to water supply and ventilation.  Sunshine Cottage will eventually be a guest house that you can rent for a weekend or a week to see what living with renewable energy is all about.  Sound like fun?

The solar panels are installed and operating!

On June 23 we installed 45 watts of solar panels on the cottage roof which are tied to a charge controller feeding a 12 volt deep draw marine battery.  Controls include low voltage protection for the battery.  We installed three 8 watt 12 volt DC fluorescent light fixtures and a couple of 12 volt fans.  We are also using the sun charged battery to charge other things like a rechargeable lantern, cell phones, iPods and some portable fans with their own rechargeable batteries.  See the photo.

Check out our new website where we are in the process of offering practical renewable energy solutions just like the ones you see here.

See the 2010 update photo at the bottom of this page.  We are kickin' amps.

Neal Road Crossing Neal Creek

Setting Sunshine Cottage on Blocks for the Time Being

Leveling the Temporary Foundation

Champagne and a Nice View of Neal Creek

Bedroom far right corner, bath will be to the left, kitchen will go where the table
is sitting, the loft is above the bedroom and bath where you see the joists.

45 watts of solar panels were installed June 23.
We have lights, a fan, and can pump water using a 12 volt deep draw
marine battery with charge controller and low voltage protector.

We also have 45 watts of PV on the barn for lighting and pumping water from the creek to the garden and beyond.

Update December 17, 2007: We have been way too busy the past couple of months. Yesterday we completed the installation of 120 watts of PV making the total for the main array 240 watts with 45 watts dedicated to a charging station for battery operated devices.  As we near the Solstice, we have been a few amps short the past couple of weeks.  This should solve the problem based on our current energy requirements for the cottage.

On December 23-24, 2007 we installed a Southwest Windpower 30 amp wind turbine on the
north end of the cottage.  Tennessee is not a great location for wind power and neither
is the cottage at the moment BUT when the wind blows enough to create energy it is
usually when a front is coming through, which means clouds that hamper solar gain.

The turbine mount is shorter than it needs to be but is the best we can do for the
moment.  It is fun to watch the blades turn which = kicking amps!  The nice thing about
this generator is that it has a built in charge controller.  The power feed from the
turbine goes straight to the battery bank and works independently from the solar panels.

The combiner box has individual breakers for each solar panel circuit which is good
for safety and is also good for testing each array individually.

Here is the complete view, 45 watts for the charging station to your right, 240 watts
for the main arrays, and the turbine.

A winter view of Neal Creek, the foot bridge and the barn from just outside the
Sunshine Cottage door.

In the early Summer of 2010 we moved the small panel arrays to the barn for future use
and replaced them with two Evergreen 205 watt B Grade panels.  There will be two more going
on the roof before the end of the year. 

The cottage was moved to a permanent basement foundation on August 18, 2011.