Solar News

Check it out: Our Farm is Solar Powered!

Take a look at how we have upgraded systems and continue to improve with new technology in order to decrease our footprint and increase our impact!


The Farm upgrades our solar hot water system!

8-20-19

During our solar hot water “blitz” over four days in August, we installed six heating panels and three storage tanks to supply the Retreat House and Caretaker Residence with solar hot water. With special help from B-Farm friend Jeff Bohrer, Caretakers and Summer Servant Pat hooked up a system that pumps water through outdoor panels and then through
a heat exchanger which transfers the sun’s energy to our domestic hot water. Since hot water heaters historically accounted for one-third of our electricity usage, we can expect a drastic decrease in our energy consumption this winter. This efficient, robust system was made possible by the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters Ministry Fund.


Solar Power Installation

Get a front-row seat to the 2009 installation of our solar panels by watching this video.

Interested in our system? Click here to see our online energy tracking with the “Sunny Boy” portal.

* Our tracking system is temporarily disabled due to a lightning strike. You can look at our record which goes through April 2019. We will install a new tracking device with the installation of new solar panels, getting us to 100% solar.

Our Photovoltaic (Solar-Electric) Panels

  • produce approximately 16,000 KWh of electricity annually, covering 2/3 of our demand and significantly reducing our utility bill.
  • offset the burning of 8 tons of coal annually– resulting in a yearly reduction of up to 32,000 lbs of CO2.
  • lock in today’s electricity price for the next 40 years— as energy costs continue to rise, our electricity will cost us the same 8 cents per watt throughout the life of the system.
  • plans to go 100% solar in 2019 with help from the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters partnership in our Net-Zero Facilities Plan!!! This system will include a Li-ion battery back-up for fridges and freezers.

Our Solar Hot Water

  • Caretaker Residence domestic hot water (DHW) is covered by solar, along with some radiant floor heating
  • plans to extend solar hot water to Retreat House in 2019 with help from the Wheaton Franciscan Sisters partnership in our Net-Zero Facilities Plan!!!

The Farm Goes Solar! . . . Again!

4-6-16

Now that solar prices have decreased dramatically, we were able to install another 7.32 kW of photovoltaic (solar-electric) panels to increase our total system to 13.56 kW of renewable electricity generation and cover 2/3 of our total usage! Thanks to local installer Saving Sunshine, Gary & Nellie Holliday, for hooking us up. We will get to 100% solar in the future!


Solar Hot Water Added!

10-28-14

With help from WV native and resident James Richards at SunBank, the Caretaker Residence solar hot water is in service! The system consists of 5 40-gallon tanks which will provide domestic hot water (DHW) and radiant floor heat for the Caretaker Residence. Thanks to Calvin Elmore for plumbing support and Don Mohler for tying the system into our floor heat. We have plans to extend the system to the Retreat House in the future.


The Farm Goes Solar!

7-24-09

We are happy to announce a great step on Bethlehem Farm’s journey toward alternative energy: the Farm is going solar! After a year of collecting wind data with our anemometer, we were deflated to learn that this mountaintop is not gusty enough to warrant harvesting wind energy. Shortly thereafter, we learned of an opportunity to purchase photovoltaic (PV) panels at a 20% discount. PV panels convert the sun’s energy into clean electricity and will reduce our reliance on the coal-fired electricity that destroys our West Virginia mountains. Thanks to proceeds from our Winter Benefit in Chicago and donations from newsletter appeals, we were able to seize this time-limited opportunity and purchase PV panels to cover 25-30% of our electricity usage. We still need your help to cover the cost of the system’s installation in order to put these solar panels to work.

Preparing the farmhouse for solar panels included installing a new roof

Hauling the 20′ sheets of metal up on the roof was not an easy task, but with teamwork and careful planning, the process went quickly. The roofing crew: the caretakers; our neighbor, Richard (a General Contractor), Richard’s metal cutter, Joe; our Fall Servant, Holly; and Colleen’s friend; Josh. The roof was completed in only three days! The new roof, which will last 40+ years, was then ready for the installation of the solar panels.