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

Energy is a central issue in the conception of our eco-lodge. Inspired by the solar facilities that were built in the area in the last century, we decided early on to incorporate 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 more importantly, he insisted that we also needed to reduce our energy needs as much as possible (by insulating the entire building envelope, carefully selecting our appliances and lighting systems, etc.)

We decided to go ahead with the idea. The proximity of the Planès church, dating from the 11th century, 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 by each and every one of the local banks. On the internet, we found the NEF, an association of ethical investors who support environmentally friendly projects, and after several months of consultation and negotiation, they 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.

In 2012, seven years after opening the lodge, we commissioned a study to determine the overall yield of our solar installation. Based on real data collected over a 3 year period, the study showed 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 electrical needs. It also determined 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 building. Finally, the study concluded that our need for external energy inputs (propane, electricity) is about two thirds less than that of other comparable buildings in our area. This savings 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 buy our electricity from and sell our electricity to Enercoop, a national cooperative that works exclusively with electricity generated using renewable energies (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 all of the electricity we consume is “clean”.

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