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