Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur


We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature's inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. ... I'd put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don't have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.

Thomas Edison

In conversation with Henry Ford and w:Harvey Firestone (1931); as quoted in Uncommon Friends : Life with Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel & Charles Lindbergh (1987) by James Newton, p. 31)

This page is aboutmy personal use of solar energy to heat my space and water and to generate my electricity as well as describing articles I've published on solar energy. I also have a webpage on solar energy particular to residential use in Washington, DC.

My continuing quest to eschew all fossil fuels (or at least mitigate the sins of the consumption that cannot be avoided) is more described on my Energy Page.

I have installed five solar hot water (SHW) on homes in Portland, Joseph, Ashland (two) and Washington, DC. I have installed four photovoltaic (PV) systems: two on the first Ashland house, one on the second Ashland home and one on my Washington, DC home.

I have written extensively on these installations in Home Power magazine, which is conincidentally published in Oregon's Rogue Valley. See articles below for specifics.

I created two Excel worksheets to aid first myself and then others in assessing the financial impacts (they are quite positive) of installing photovoltaic power (click here) and solar hot water (click here) particularly in the non-state of Washington, DC. One can plug in their own variables to determine the potential simple paypack,  return on investment and net present value of going solar. The key is to think of solar power as an investment (and a tax-free one at that!) rather than a cost. One can likely get better returns investing some of your money in the sun rather than the stock market, bond market or a savings account.


A Self-Pumped Solar Hot Water System, published in Home Power, examines the passive Sunnovations Geyser Pump system, which doesn't have electrical and mechanical compoments (which can be points of failure).

PV and Grid Capacity, published in Home Power, discusses the "limits" of the grid to utlitize photovoltaic energy.

After the Bids, Crunching the Numbers, published in Home Power, compares and contrasts leasing versus purchase options for a hypothetical residential Washington, DC photovoltaic power system.

Monetizing Sunshine: Developing Your Own Green Power Station, published in Home Power, helps you decide whether it is a rational business investment for you to install a small-scale photovoltaic energy system on your home or business.

To Track or Not to Track, published in Home Power, examines the cost-effectiveness of investing in equipment to mechancially move photovoltaic panels to capture more of the sun's energy.

Review of the book Passive Solar Architecture: Heating, Cooling, Ventilation, Daylighting, and More Using Natural Flows by David A. Bainbridge and Ken Haggard in Home Power magazine.

The Stimulus Act's "Buy American" Provision: Red, White & Blue-Washing?, published in Home Power magazine, finds that American-made photovoltaic panels can be rather cosmopolitan.

Plummeting PV Costs, published in Home Power magazine, examines the declining costs of photovotaic panels.

Low-Priced Chinese PV Modules: Good or Bad for the U.S. PV Industry, published by Home Power magazine, looks at the cheap Chinese PV module controversy from the perspectives of US manufacturers and US installers.

Free Tools For Estimating PV System Output, published in Home Power magazine, discusses online calculators such as PVWatts.

Solyndra & the Fate of Clean-Energy Loans, published in Home Power magazine, examines the controversy over a government-backed loan guarantee to a now-bankrupt photovoltatic panel producer.

PV Challenges in the Nation's Capitol, published in Home Power magazine, is about some particular challenges associated with the installation of my fourth PV system.

Here is an article about my home in Ashland (aka Sunny Oaks) from the 2008 Green+Solar Building Oregon published by 3EStrategies.

The Path to Greener Buildings, published in Home Power magazine, is about the trials and tribulations of building a state-of-the-art, super-insulated, passive- and active-solar, toxic-free and earth-, people- and pet-friendly habitat that is Sunny Oaks.

Building a Solar Business, published in Home Power magazine, is about my third photovoltaic panel installation at Sunny Oaks in Ashland.

Making Sense (and Dollars) of Solar Hot Air Collectors published in Home Power magazine examines the financial benefits of supplementing my home heating with the sun. I moved before I could add solar space heating to my Iowa Street house in Ashland.

Grid-Tied Solar in Small Town, USA is the Home Power article on my first photovoltaic power station on the garage of my Iowa Street house in Ashland.

Making PV Pay: It's Just Good Business Sense is my Home Power article on my second photovoltaic power installation on my Iowa Street house in Ashland. Mixing Business & Pleasure is the Home Power article on the financial benefits of this particular installation. 


• PDFs of my two PowerPoints to Solar Oregon's Net Zero Energy Group: Sunny Oaks: A State-of-the-Art, Super-Insulated, Passive- and Active-Aolar, Net-Zero Energy, Toxic-Free and Earth-, People- and Pet-Friendly Habitat and Some Hopefully Provocative Observations and Predictions After Installing Four Photovoltaic and Five solar Hot Water Systems in the Last Quarter Century.


Energy Trust of Oregon distributes the public purposes charge assessed on the energy use by the customers of investor-owned utilities in Oregon to encourage renewable energy production and energy efficiency.

Window Quilt is the most energy-efficient window shading available.

Homepower magazine is the best source on small-scale home-based renewable energy sources.

Solar Oregon is a citizen advocacy organization worth joining.

Rocky Mountain Institute is an excellent resource on sustainable energy.

Electron Connection in the form of Bob-O Schultz was my electrical advisor for the Larch Company Photovoltaic Power Stations. When asked, I usually always recommend at least two vendors, so if something goes bad, I can always say, well, you should have done the other one I guess. In the case of Bob-O, I do not make a second recommendation because he is second to none. He will do well by you.

My two solar hot water systems in Ashland were installed by Tim & Geoff Dawson of The Solar Connection in Talent, Oregon. The new owners of Solar Connection are Luke and Paige Frazer. I had an issue and Luke was right on it.

I'm quite impressed with as a detailed source of information about all things solar panels.


The sun is the only nuclear power station the Earth needs. It is safely sited, doesn't generate dangerous waste and won't have cost overruns.

Andy Kerr