transforming a 300 year old farmhouse into low energy building that runs on solar

Energy is at the core of the conception of our ecolodge. Inspired by the solar facilities that were built in the area in the last century, we thought it would be logical to take advantage of this clean energy source in our renovation project. When we began looking for a local consultant, we came across an environmentally conscious architect who is also a militant promoter of renewable energies. He helped us to understand the potential of solar energy and the details of how thermal and photoelectric systems work. And most importantly, he insisted that along with using solar energy and wood combustion in our project, we make major efforts to reduce our energy needs (by insulating the entire building envelope, carefully selecting our appliances and lighting systems, etc.)

We decided to forge ahead. The proximity of the Planès church made it necessary to integrate the solar panels on the roof of the farmhouse in order to obtain the approval of those responsible for protecting the national monuments in France. And when we began to look for financing, the added cost of the solar installation led to the project's refusal local bank after local bank. On the internet, we found an association of ethical investors who support environmentally friendly projects, and who after careful consultation, agreed to finance ours. In the end, the project includes a solar installation with 42 m2 of thermal panels and 32 m2 of photoelectric cells, all integrated on the south side of our roof, along with 350 m2 of in-floor heating, distributed on the ground floor and the first floor of both the Orri and the Refugi.

The installation is innovative, incorporating new technologies, and we had to make numerous modifications over the first few years to work out all the bugs. In 2012, we commissioned an energy study to determine the system's overall yield. Based on real data collected over a 3 year period, it concludes that our thermal installation produces enough energy to cover almost all of our hot water needs and half of our heating needs year round (our pool is also heated exclusively by the excess heat produced by our thermal system during Summer months), while the photoelectric installation covers about half of our annual electrical needs. It also determines that our annual energy consumption is 48 kwh/m2, a figure that corresponds to energy level A and classifies the Orri as a low energy-use building, and concludes that our consumption of external energy (propane, electricity) is about one third of that consumed by other comparable buildings in our area. This dramatic reduction is the result of solar production and of the extensive efforts that were made to reduce our lodge's energy needs.

Since early November, 2006, we sell the electricity we produce and buy the electricity we consume from Enercoop, a national cooperative that works exclusively with electricity generated using renewables (wind, water and sun). This decision allows us to be part of an initiative that fits in perfectly with our environmental policy, and at the same time, guarantees that electricity we consume is 'clean'.

solar panels on the Orri de Planès' roof sustainable energy?