19th Century Homestead > 21st Century – A Journey from Coal to Solar

System Info

Size of System: 16.2kW
Number of Panels: 54
Type of Panels: 300w DC
Inverter Brand and Model: Enphase Energy M215-60-2LL-S2x-IG (240V)
a solar panels on a roof

Driving up to the charming 1901 homestead of high school sweethearts Joe and Vonda Schertz, it looks and feels a bit like stepping back in time.   After seeing more than a hundred years of technological changes, the farmhouse, which originally was heated with coal, prepares to transition into the 21st century with clean-renewable solar power.  As you wander into the yard, their friendly dog, Roxie, wags her tail in greeting as the TruNorth Solar crew prepares to install their new solar array.

Through the years the Schertz’s have implemented many changes to help this 19th century farmstead leap into the 21st century. Joe and Vonda point to the above ground pool and explain how electric pumps send pool water up to the black rubber piping on the barn roof. The sun heats the water in the coils and allows them to enjoy a comfortable 90 degree swim.  The Schertz’s have also replaced their natural gas boiler with a high- efficiency Garn, which is a gasification wood burning stove that supplies all of the hot water for their home, with minimal emissions.

The Schertz’s new TruNorth solar system, a 16.2kW array installed on both the chicken coop and the old pig shed, will provide their family 22,873kWh of electricity per year, offsetting 100% their use.

As a grid-tied system, the Schertz’s will still buy electricity from their utility, Xcel Energy, when the sun isn’t shining. The system has a 10  year payback, which means by the beginning of year 11, they will enjoy continuous savings on their electricity. According to the EPA website, their system will offset 17.4 tons of carbon each year, the equivalent of reducing 1,775 gallons of gasoline carbon emissions!

Where is all that power going?

Joe, one of those lucky few who found a way to turn his passion into a living, teaches guitar, drums and songwriting lessons at his very own school, The School of Music and Mayhem.  The cellar-turned-studio will now be powered by the sun, supplying clean energy for electric guitars, amps and recording equipment.

Joe is paring up with 7 of his students and writing a song that is very long–8 minutes and 20 seconds long–to be exact.   That’s the amount of time it takes for photons to leave the sun and land on the solar panels. “We wanted to write a song to accompany a time-lapse video of the solar panel installation. It’s a great student project that will help draw attention to the need to help reduce our carbon footprint. What a better way than through a song that lasts the same length of time as it takes a photon to travel from the Sun to Earth! The photons exploding off the surface of the sun at the moment the song begins are the same ones warming your cheeks when the last note fades away,” explains Joe. When it’s ready, this recording will be available on the School of Music and Mayhem’s website: http://www.SchoolofMusicandMayhem.com

We’re at a pivotal time here on Earth regarding global climate change. “What are we personally going to do to make it better for future generations?” is the question Joe and Vonda asked themselves. The answer was clear–work to eliminate their carbon footprint by going solar.

Taking a 19th century home and converting to a zero net carbon footprint was no easy task. “Our farm house used to consume, now it produces,” adds Vonda. “Global climate change isn’t going away without a fight. This is a call to arms–everybody can help make a change.”