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Huntsville, Alabama  35804-0143
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NOTE: Newer photos are at the bottom.

These are just some of the hundreds of folks who joined the 2008 National Solar Tour. This group watched the movie “Kilowatt Ours” (http:/ during a lunch break. Other groups toured in Baldwin, Jefferson, and Mobile Counties. The National Solar Tour is always the first Saturday of October each year. Join us Saturday, October 3rd, 2009.

Warren House, Hoover

The Warren Home is in Hoover, AL. A 1962 structure was retrofitted to modern standards. The electric bills dropped from $249/mo to $99/month budget billing and the gas bill was eliminated. The PV array is only 4KW. Earth Steward Solar Consulting and GreenWorks Design/Build designed the project.

Coleman House

Southern Cypress was designed, built, and occupied by architect and ASA Solarite Debbie Coleman. The front of this 2,100 SF home faces west.

During the hot Alabama summers, dogs lie in the shade on the cool earth beneath porches. On cold days. they seek a sunny spot. These simple solutions for staying comfortable are easy to incorporate into the design of homes.

When combined with energy efficient construction and a well-desianed mechanical svstem. the sun's energy can further reduce the need for auxiliary heat. At the same time, good passive solar design keeps out the summer sun to reduce air conditioning needs. The home has an average energy bill of $85 per month (one-third the energy consumption of other homes in the area). House plan can be seen on the Sun Plans website at

Wood Chip Truck 1

We know that all energy comes from the sun. When we think of traveling, we think of the sun's energy stored in very old dead ferns compressed into oil, brought to the earth's surface, and refined into fuel. But the sun is still working to make energy for us today.

Alabama is blessed with a lot of sunshine, fertile river valleys and hills, and enough rainfall to grow luscious pine forests. In fact, two thirds of our magnificent state is covered with pine forests.

Alabama farmer and inventor Wayne Keith has found a way to convert wood chips into fuel for three pickup trucks and a variety of machinery on his farm.

Above, Morton watches as Keith dumps a small bag of wood chips into the hopper atop one old oil drum in the truck bed. It looks like a scene from the end of the Sci-Fi movie Back to the Future where “Doc” dumps some banana peels and other garbage into the fuel hopper of his Delorian/time machine.

Wood Chip Truck 2

Under the hood (below), the wood chip truck looks amazingly like any other farm truck, give or take a few wires and tubes.

First Straw Bale House in Alabama

Dr. William Henry Burritt, Huntsville physician and inventor, built what was believed to be the first straw-bale housed in Alabama in 1936 and in 1938. Why did he build it twice?

Straw bale construction was still very experimental in the early 20th Century. Pioneers in America’s heartland had built homes of the prairie grass a century earlier, when trees were hard to come by. Dr. Burritt was worried about rodents and insects eating his walls. He lined the straw with copper sheeting to protect it. As soon as the electricity was connected, however, his mansion burned to the ground.

For his next attempt, he ordered the straw treated with boric acid and eliminated the copper sheeting. The plan worked, and the house stands solidly almost a century later. Learn more about this splendid and innovative structure by visiting the museum atop Monte Sano in Huntsville, Alabama, of on the web at:

See a 21st Century straw bale house on the Alabama Solar Tour in Royal, Alabama, October 3rd and 4th.

21st Century Straw Bale House in Alabama

Alden Bridle designed, built, and occupied this infill straw bale house in Blount County in 1997. He needed a good insulation barrier and a stable interior temperature. He wanted to build his house completely off-grid. He chose a wood stove heat and hoped the thick walls would keep out the summer heat. This worked well, but he did have a problem with summertime humidity and mold.

"It's not for the water skiing crowd,"says the designer.

Due to humidity and mold problems, an air conditioner was added in 2000, requiring double the solar panels. The additional panels also provide the majority of the hot water requirements for the house, using any excess power when available. A home heat pump would have required too much power. He hasn’t measured the humidity, but the mold problem has disappeared. When the 2006 Federal law offered tax credits for solar power, Alden added 6 panels to his solar array. Above, ASA founder Al Orillion stands beside the new array on the 2006 Alabama Solar Tour.

Alden’s latest addition is a super-efficient refrigerator. The system is located in a cold room in the basement with wall insulation built of straw bale and foam with an “R” value of about 50. In winter outside air will be used to cool the room. The compressors are outside the room to help keep the room temperature below the basement temperature. There are two cooling units, one for a 27 cubic foot refrigeration space and one for a 14 cubic foot freezer space. R 100 vacuum insulated panels are used in the walls of the refrigerator. Based on current operating data, these units together use about 250 KWH per year. To put this in perspective, compare this energy use rate with a 25 cubic foot Energy Star side by side refrigerator which is rated to use 578 KWH per year. Alden’s design uses 43% of the energy and has 61% more storage space than the Energy Star refrigerator.

The newest project is water tanks that will provide household water from rain water off the roof.

See this house on the Alabama Solar Tour in Royal, Alabama, October 3rd and 4th.

Contact Alden to learn more about this extraudinary home at

The Space Shuttle Atlantis (STS-125) crew took this dramatic picture from orbit May 22, 2009. See the thin blue line behind the shuttle's tail? That's our atmosphere.

University of Louisiana-Lafayette's Team BeauSoleil house generates more energy than it consumes yet has a state-of-the-art kitchen for entertaining and cooking. The design incorporates several aspects of early Cajun cottages. It can be built for an affordable $120,000 to $150,000 depending on local construction costs.

Jesse’s Restaurant (, located in the 1922 old general store in Magnolia Springs just off the Mobile Bay, is well known by locals and tourists alike for excellent service and great food. The owners called Gulf Coast Solar ( to see if they could help update the historic building while making it a “greener” restaurant. Mark Friedline and his staff met and suggested an economical plan for using solar water preheating.

Their new system uses five 4' x 10' collectors (mounted on the back roof of the restaurant) to solar-heat water in three 120 gallon storage tanks. The preheated water feeds the original 120-gallon commercial water heater, which was running almost constantly. All the solar heat collected replaces energy that would have had to be purchased. All the equipment was moved to a newly-built external room to free up inside floor space. Mark also installed low-energy LED lighting to further reduce their electricity bills.

System savings have been over our original projections and well over the system financing costs. The owners are very pleased. The project featured:

  • Natural Dependable Renewable Energy
  • Commercial Restaurant Water Heating
  • Five 4’ x 10’ Solar Water Collectors
  • Withstand winds up to 180 MPH, Dade County Specification
  • Aluminum Collectors, Copper and Tempered Glass
  • Drainback, closed loop system with pump
  • Three 120 Gallon Solar Storage tanks with recirculation pump
  • Aluminum racking system for roof mounting panels

Let’s hope the owner puts this eatery on the National Solar Tour this October. Sounds like a great lunch stop.

Steve Archibald named 2010 Alabama Solar Professional of the Year

Steve Archibald

The Professional of the Year (PoY) selection committee has chosen Steve Archibald, your Information Director, as the 2010 Alabama Solar Professional of the Year. The committee consisted of past PoY winners still serving as an ASA director. This included Al Orillion, Erwin Simon, Larry Bradford, and Morton Archibald. Morton withdrew from the committee when the Board nominated Steve and Public Relations Director Kay Detter for the honor.

Kay and Steve spent 2009 transitioning ASA from a barely- functioning skeleton to an organization poised to make a difference in the world of renewable energy.

Steve pulled ASA into the 21st Century. He took a basic website template created by a professional designer, added some much needed functionality, and turned it into ASA’s window to the world. He successfully linked us to our national and international parent organizations while clearly defining duties and relationships for the rest of our chapter. When our Board of Directors was critically short-handed, Steve helped with the jobs of webmaster, newsletter editor, and treasurer.

Steve has always been fascinated by the advancement of technology. He enjoys learning how tasks that once were difficult and wasteful are now so effortlessly and efficiently completed using today's tools. Old enough to have witnessed first-hand the energy crisis of the 70's, yet too young to appreciate the scope of the just-then awakening giant, Steve holds a much greater regard for one of the biggest challenges facing humankind today. Steve is confident that we will continue to build on our knowledge, advance our technology, and have a fighting chance against the beast before us.

Steve holds a B.S. Degree in Management of Technology and an Associate in Applied Technology Degree in Industrial Electronics Technology. He brings to ASA proven communication skills and a personal interest in technology. His objective is to enhance communication between ASA members, the public, businesses, and policy makers with regard to the many benefits of renewable energy.

The Board also recognized Kay Detter, your Public Relations Director, for her extraordinary service to ASA over the past year. She also helped the short-handed ASA Board by performing duties of the vacant positions of Membership and Education Directors. Her publicity duties exposed ASA to new venues and greatly increased participation in existing ones.

Kay is fully committed in bringing her organizational expertise and enthusiasm to any project. Kay recently founded HSVGREEN LLC to promote energy efficiency and conservation in the Huntsville area. Kay is a certified Green Irene eco-consultant and a member of the construction committee of Athens/Limestone County Habitat for Humanity in building LEED-certified homes. Kay has a BS in Business Administration from the University of Alabama Huntsville.

Kay Detter

At the 2009 ASES national convention, ASES Chapter Representative Rich Caputo, referred to our chapter as “Alabama, the One-Man Band.” Morton was then trying hard to do everything himself. Kay and Steve organized a massive amount of information into a format usable by directors and members alike.

“Alabama, the One-Man Band”—NO MORE!

Craig McManus of Affordable Solar in Dothan ( installed this five-panel solar hot water system atop this five-story hotel in Tallahassee, Florida. The design makes maximum use of available sunshine by pre-heating water to feed the existing gas-fired boilers. The system included two of the 200 gallon water storage tanks. Installation took two weeks.

Working six stories above ground on a steeply sloped roof presented special challenges. Workers used the crane all day long and had to work tethered to safety points by harnesses.

Wind loads are always a problem in the Florida Panhandle. Only 30 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes are always a distinct possibility. Structural engineers designed a rail system to securely hold panels in place and bolt them through the roof to the building rafters.

Funding for the project was helped with a $10,000 demonstration grant from the State. Let's hope other hotels, perhaps some in Alabama, like the demonstration and try similar projects.

Oil on the Water

The oil washing onto our beaches and into our estuaries from the Gulf and the recent coal mining disasters remind us of the hazards of fossil-fuel extraction here. We are faced with continuing risky behavior, increasing dependence on foreign energy suppliers, or beginning to gradually shift to renewable energy sources. The Alabama Solar Association will help you learn to design and build sustainability into your homes and businesses in a way that will save money as you reduce our dependence on foreign oil.

Barefoot on this beach, anyone?

Americans could learn a lot about energy conservation from the Filipinos.

The Republic of the Philippines has no oil wells. Every drop of petroleum-based energy has to be imported. Also, Filipinos work very hard for their modest pay. Perhaps that is one reason they take energy use seriously.

Instead of selling unneeded original plastic bottles, local supermarkets offer foil (recyclable) pouches to refill the original plastic bottles. See the left three pictures above. This practice saves energy, saves customers money, and reduces waste disposal problems—no small problem on this island nation. Interestingly, two of the three are American company’s products; so why are these choices not available in our supermarkets?


Filipinos who take advantage of these choices can first reduce consumption by buying the plastic bottle only once and then recycle the empty foil pouches. But what about more recycling?

The picture above right shows a package of toilet paper. It is made from 100 percent recycled paper and it is chlorine free. I have used it every day of my stay here in Tarlac City, and I can attest to the claim that it is “soft and strong.” It is certainly eco-friendly.

"Trikes" shown left, actually motorbikes with sidecars, are very popular, especially on the tiny resort island of Boracay. They fit well on the narrow streets. Most people who own a private family vehicle own a trike. They are also used extensively as taxis and delivery vehicles. Golf carts such as those far left were considered luxury transportation on Boracay. With gas costing $3.90 per gallon, two days wages for a typical worker, drivers could get very creative.

Solar power keeps safe the Orient's finest natural harbor, Manila Bay.

The Spanish built a stone lighthouse on the 628-foot high peak of the tiny island of Corregidor in 1836. It used oil lamps to guide the galleons entering and leaving Manila Bay. In 1897, taller lighthouse was built using the original stones.

The new lighthouse survived the Philippine-American War but was heavily damaged in World War II. It had to be torn down and rebuilt completely. The new lighthouse (above left) was constructed in 1950 on the same site as the old one, using the old stones.

The old lantern has been replaced with a solar-powered light. It emits three white flashes every 20 seconds and is visible as far as 36 miles away in the South China Sea. A separate solar array powers the adjacent 115-foot high Radar tower (above Right). Solar power keeps ships and passengers safe approaching and transiting Manila Bay.

The Eternal Flame Monument (above left) is a large steel sculpture which symbolizes the Flame of Freedom burning eternally. Located behind the Pacific War Memorial Dome of Peace, on a raised platform above a reflecting pool, it is lighted by three SunPower solar panels.

ASA president Morton Archibald (above right) stands beside part of a solar array for the lighthouse and the radar tower.

Progressive cities are scrambling to build charging stations for the new electric vehicles.

TVA is building several grid-tied photovoltaic charging stations shown above. Imagine having that summer sunshine providing your vehicle with free electric mileage instead of converting it into a solar oven. One enterprising truck driver decided to drive his PV carport around atop his vehicle above right).

Kids plan ahead for a "green" future.

Baylee Grace Alldredge, a student at Boaz Intermediate School, asked her gifted teacher, Ms. Lynn Toney, what her class could do to make more people recycle in and around Boaz. She suggested they form an environmental club, so they did. On August 24, 2009, the club met for the first time after school in Ms. Toney’s room, and they are still going strong today.

Students had to bring a permission form signed by a parent before they could join. Each had to pay a onetime fee of $15.00, which includes the club t-shirt that students could wear to meetings and events. As you can see from these photos, the shirts look pretty sharp.

The club began focusing on recycling for the good of the environment, but Morton and Kay gave them a different idea. They showed club members The Story of Stuff video about how excessive consumerism in developed countries is robbing the resources of developing nations. Morton and Kay offering Reduction and Reuse as a preferred option to recycling. The students took the message to heart and began looking for ways to keep stuff from ever needing to be recycled.

Last fall, the club took a tour of the local recycling center. The center director explained to the students that Boaz residents recycle more than typical community citizens. We have to wonder if the students’ efforts over the past year helped the overall local recycling success. Students got lessons on how the materials may be turned into a useful products and how many times materials may be recycled. Next, they donned latex gloves and spent an hour sorting recyclable materials.

Watch a video made by the students during their advdnture on You Tube.

The sun rose in a brown haze over Nanchang, China, every morning for the week we were there in October 2003. Coal-fired electric generation plants made the Chinese air so unhealthy, that Beijing officials shut off the worse offenders for the Olympics in 2008. Even then, participating athletes from around the world reported diminished performances.

Josh's Chevy Volt plugs into Firefly for a 6-amp recharge at the National Plug-In Day in Huntsville, Sunday, September 23, 2012.

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