Doing it right: Rural family utilizes wind, solar power

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//img-UsCzUUsgC6.jpg’, ‘Photo by Kathy Lawrence’, ‘Kent and Kathy Lawrence power their rural Ogle County home with a solar/wind hybrid system. The home will be featured as part of an Oct. 2 tour of solar homes.’);

High on a wooded hilltop in rural Ogle County stands a 10-kilowatt Bergey wind generator on a 120-foot tower. A soft “swooshing” sound can be heard as the blades turn. At its base is a 3-kilowatt array of solar panels. Output for the hybrid system can be read on meters mounted at eye level. This summer, renewable energy provided all of the electrical needs of the house. Excess was sent back to the grid.

A few hundred feet down the winding gravel drive stands the home powered by wind and sun. A visitor’s first impression is that the house blends with its surroundings. Built of natural wood and stone, it seems to have grown rather than to have been built.

“We wanted a place in the country, but we also wanted a small footprint,” claims Kent Lawrence, who with his wife, Kathy, built the expansive, yet modest, 2,200-square-foot dwelling.

A south-facing exterior wall of glass allows the winter sun to enter a long hallway and heat the north wall built of native limestone. During the night, the trombe wall slowly release stored heat to the house.

The Lawrences calculate one-third of the home’s heating needs will be met by passive solar energy. During the summer, a lattice overhang shields the home from the sun’s hot rays.

Calculated payback times for the solar and wind systems range from 12 to 23 years. Projected savings have also been calculated. Just as important as economic considerations are the benefits of using non-polluting, renewable sources of energy.

Being in the home provides a sense of shelter while also offering the sense of being outdoors. Natural materials are used throughout the home. Triple-glazed windows allow daylight from all four directions. The kitchen, dining room, living room and loft library are one large open area. Sitting at the second floor library table is like being in a tree house.

Small bedrooms off the hall seem larger due to the extension of ceiling space over attached bathrooms. Large windows face north while smaller windows above doors open the view of the sky and wind generator through the south wall of glass.

Views from all windows and the porch, which covers the west and north of the house, are of the surrounding woods and countryside. The land will be returned to native oak woodland and prairie.

Floors in the great room are sustainably grown and harvested bamboo, which is stronger than wood. Hall floors are recycled ground granite tiles. Exposed beams are from old barns.

Ceiling fans gently circulate air throughout the house. The full basement, which may some day be used as offices for the Kickapoo Mud Creek Nature Conservancy, maintains a steady 50-degree temperature. Recycled cardboard insulation appears on the exposed beams.

The home was carefully thought out and planned for ecological friendliness. Even the paint has a natural base.

The Lawrences wanted an ecologically friendly home providing a sense of unity with nature. They’ve achieved it.

Note: This home will be on the tour of solar places Oct. 2.

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