Renewable Energy Projects at Starlight Cascade

Starlight Cascade in Eastern Ontario Canada outside of Yarker near Kingston
Page Created 2003 May 06
Page last updated: 2011 June 29

Weather Underground PWS IONTARIO51 Our weather underground station ID is IOntario51 We've always been interested in renewable energy, solar heating, solar electric, solar energy and solar power in general. In the last house we had a simple 5w solar panel charging a deep cycle 12vdc battery which ran emergency lights, a radio and a small TV during power outages.

  • 2011 June: We are up to about 74-76% power use on the "low" time, which is weekend and after 7pm weekdays and before 7am weekdays. Now of course, we do not watch or conserve as much on the low times as we are tired of watching the clock all weekdays long before turning anything on. No new plans... just an old one to remount the single 5watt panel and add a 2nd one and upgrade the cable feed inside to the batteries.
  • 2011 April: After almost a year of having a time of use power meter, we were finally put onto the time of use billing. Our averaged monthly pricing plan went up from about $220 to $280, which on the face of things was ridiculous. The time of use was initially marketed as revenue neutral and if one worked at it, would save consumer $$$. In any event, we started monitoring on a daily basis, usually 3 or 4 days behind for some reason, watching our power use carefully and slowing adjusting and or adding mechanical timers to many appliances.
  • 2009 May 31: After spending an evening at a meeting with a Kingston sustainability group, we came home a little more motivated to try and be more sustainable. We went through a list of all of the things we have done in the past and came up with a few more for the future. One of them was to conduct an hour by hour power user survey over 1 normal weekend day. When that was completed we moved to curtail/conserve power use for the next day and measure it hour by hour. The results were good.
  • 2008 Sept 20: Our new smart meter was installed. Easier to read from day to day than the analog sweep hands on the old one. No smart features yet but they will come (internet access to the meter readings, time of day billing, etc).
  • 2008 July 14 Monday: Another reason for local renewable power generation,: a 6 hour power outage caused by a large tree falling on "main lines". This affected 980 households in our area. In other news, the Wolfe Island Wind Farm was purportedly starting construction now with emphasis on road upgrades and staging area prep. No news on the Ontario Hydro "Smart Meter" replacement project. Initially we were to be done in 2007... hmmm that seems to have slipped a bit!
  • 2008 April 21:
    Whig Standard article
    Groundbreaking of North America's Largest Solar Photovoltaic Energy Park SkyPower and SunEdison to build & operate Ontario's first utility-scale solar park
    STONE MILLS, ON, April 21 /CNW/ - Joint venture partners SkyPower Corp., a Lehman Brothers Company, and SunEdison Canada announced today the official groundbreaking of First Light, North America's largest solar photovoltaic energy park to date, located on approximately 300 acres of land in Lennox & Addington County, Ontario. Construction of the 19-megawatt (MW) solar park is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2009. Local communities will benefit from clean renewable energy sufficient to power more than 2,000 homes annually.

    This is huge... There was also a photo with our local politicians at the ground breaking yesterday. Hope they actually follow through on a timely basis... the Wolfe Island Wind Farm seems to be going on forever with little > no progress.
    The township has about 2500 houses with 7500 people. Hopefully this shift away from coal/oil as a fuel with help clear the skies!
  • The first ongoing project was conservation, replacing most incandescent bulbs with Compact Fluroescent (CF) bulbs.
  • 2003 May: Project one was a solar water heater for the pool
  • 2004 May: Project two is a 7 watt solar electric system
  • 2005 July: Project three added a 2.2 watt solar electric panel to powervent the observatory
  • 2005 September: Project four is a greenhouse This falls more into old tech renewable energy.
  • 2007 May: pretty well all bulbs that can be converted from incandescent to flourescent have been. Motion sensors have installed on most outdoor lighting. imers and x10 controllers on many day-to-day living lights. We have picked up a large power inverter (1kw+) and a new marine deep cycle battery for use in power outages. Sometime this summer we are slated to have out Ontario Hydro power meter replaced with a "smart-meter". This promises to give us the ability for daily records of use via the Ontario Hydro website, and help to keep conservation awareness in mind..
  • In the near future plans are for: a small wind generator (400watt or so), more solar panels (30+ watt), more solar garden lighting replacing 4w (x12=48watt) noma wired lighting, solar hot water for the house, a second solar hot water panel (80ft^2) for the pool, 1 large power invertor (1200watt+).


  • 2008 July: gasoline $1.32/litre, electricity 5.0/5.9 cents kwh totaling 14 cents kwh
  • 2007 May: electricity 5.3/6.2 kwh
  • 2005 September: Price of gasoline: $1.219/litre, electricity 4.7/5.5 cents kwh with a total billable cost of around $0.12/kwh
  • 2005 July
    Price of gasoline: $1.019/litre, electricity 4.7/5.5 cents kwh with a total billable cost of around $0.12/kwh

    We needed more storage space plus a better place to start our gardens in as the basement with fluorescent lighting wasn't working out so well. So Up went the greenhouse on the September Labour Day weekend. It is 8'x12' = 96 ft^2, with 64 ft^2 of clear polycarbonate panels on the roof and 32 ft ^2 on the south wall. It should save lots of $$ of electrical power, give us more and better plants come the May long weekend planting time and hopefully help all of the way around.

    Solar Observatory Panel Project

    We needed extra powered ventilation in the observatory as temperatures were hitting over 40 deg C on hot (30+ deg) sunny days in the summer. We had already two 4 inch vents in the upper roof gable. We added two floor vents to draw in cool air and that still wasn't enough. Last year we installed a 12vdc 4 " muffin fan power off the observatory power supply but we kept forgetting to disconnect the power before opening the roof and often ripped the fan right out of its mount. So we needed a power source on the roof and
    Canadian Tire's 2.2 watt solar panel came on sale for about $30, about the same as the older 1watt model. The only drawback here is that this model is rated for indoors only and may not survive being mounted on the observatory roof. Once the hot season is over, the solar panel will be moved to the south wall of the observatory and be used to trickle charge the observatory deep cycle battery.

    Solar Panel Project

    2004 May
    7 Watts mounted
    Price of gasoline: $0.919/litre, electricity 4.7/5.5 cents kwh with a total billable cost of around $0.12/kwh

    Having two 1 watt solar panels (Canadian Tire $20) ($20/watt) left over and getting a 5 watt panel on sale (ICP Global from Canadian Tire $80) ($80/5=$16/watt), it was time to put them up and start charging some house batteries (used to power fluorescent lighting and 12vdc Televisions, radios and a VHF radio during power outages). At some point in the future it will also power some patio lighting using superbright LED's. 7 watts is pretty puny but it will be a good learning experiencing for building adjustable racks, power management and snow cover issues before the first 100 watt panel comes along (about $800) later.
    The south facing shed roof has a 12 degree slope. I wanted an adjustable frame that I would have to move only twice a year. Some calculations showed that moving the frame on the equinoxes (March and September) would provide the most power. So a small wooden frame of pine (1"x2" and 2"x2") was built to mount the panels on, connected to a larger outer frame via a piano hinge. The frame had two coats of exterior grade varathane and the panels were mounted.

    The whole assembly will be screwed into the shed roof (with silicon caulking on the screws) and the power cables run inside the shed to a power distribution/cutoff box. We wanted to leave room under the pool solar heater for a second one in the future, so that meant the solar electric would have to go above it on the roof. From there a single heavier power cable would run to the battery bank with a voltmeter and another cutoff switch.
    From there another power cable runs to a fuse then to a distribution panel with cutoffs.
    One power circuit will run to the back patio deck to power the lighting.
    Another will run into the house to the radio room (vhf radio and lighting), one to the computer UPS's for additional runtime.

    Solar Heater Project

    2003 May
    In the new house, the first priority has gone to a solar water heating system for the pool. In this case it is not saving any money as we have no other heating system in place (eg gas or electric), but it will extend the use of the existing resource by several weeks each side of the summer.

    It is a Fafco Sunsaver economy, was purchased from Shelin Pools in Napanee Ontario for approx $380. It measures 4'x20' and comes with an inadequate tiedown system for our area, which features high afternoon winds (30-50 kph).
    It is rated at over 80000 BTUs, raises temperature up to 10 degrees F and comes with a ten year decreasing warranty.

    Step 1: put the panel in the sun to allow it to heat up and soften so it can be unrolled
    Step 2: Inspect the location, in this case a south facing shed roof
    Step 3: Position the flat panel correct side up!, and in this case, with the outer edge hanging over the roofline to allow for easier hose connection and access to the valve (we will drill holes in the handle and run cords down to ground level to control the flow through the panel
    Step 4: Make sure your roof is long enough! In this case we had a little room to spare. We also left room on top to walk around for installation.
    Step 5: The basic kit comes with three inadequate nylon cord restraints. Since our prevailing winds are from the west, we thought the panel would go flying off the first day. The included mounts were siliconed and attached with #8 by 2" screws into the roof sheating.
    Step 6: So we added three more restraints, consisting of a permanently mounted 1"x2" screwed and caulked onto the shingles with #8 by 2" screws. Mounted from underneath is a 1/4x20 x3" carriage bolt. The hold down wood is 2"x2" x4'4", giving a two inch overhang on each end in which a 1/4" hole was drilled. All wood components were varathaned, then loosely assembled as shown, then mounted to the roof.
    Step 7: The complete panel mounted. We put the 2"x2" hold-downs at either end and in the middle, two of the nylon tie-downs on the windward side and the third nylon tie down on the downwind side.
    Step 8: Went through several iterations of plumbing connections until finally they stopped leaking. Used teflon tape and two clamps on each connection.
    It worked well. We added ropes to the bypass valve so the unit could be operated from the ground and with the pump on a mechanical timer so that it did not run at night, we mainly left the solar heater in the 90% full on position and we did find that it raised the average temperature by at least 1 or 2 degrees C on an average day.

    Total time involved so far, about 2 hours.

    The saga will continue with more information on the maunfacturer, model information and more. The plumbing connections should normally not take more than a few minutes but in our case we have to cut through a wall. Also, two digital thermometers need to be added, one downstream and one upstream from the collector to get an idea of when to bypass the collector when it starts to cool the water.

    We didn't get thermometers yet, that will have to wait until next year. At some point in time a second panel could be added for more heat. We left room on the roof for a second unit and it would make more of a difference for sure!

    Image gallery


  • Any general purpose incandescent light bulb has been replaced over the last two years (2002-2004) with Compact Fluorescent (CF) bulbs. The last and most significant was a 300w bulb in the shed with a 14w CF bulb. this happened immediately after discovering I had left the light on overnight (300w*10hours = 3kwh!). In general 60w were replaced with 10-12w and todate about 18 have been replaced (7 in the office, 3 in the spare room, 3 in the living room. 1 in the shed, 2 in the laundry room. 1 in the basement, 1 on the back yard).
  • Step 2 was putting the pool pump onto a timer. A 1 HP pump motor uses 11amps * 120volts = 1.32kwh * 24 hours = 31.7kwh/day! All by itself! Shutting it off entirely would be one solution but we use it as a substitute for air conditioning (don't have any of that) plus it beats floating around in the hot summer over being stuck inside with cold clammy air blowing in at you! A little research on the net revealed that 8 to 12 hours/day is sufficient in most cases for pool circulation and filtering, plus we had the solar hot water heater to think about. So we added a $5 mechnical timer to drop the 24 duty cycle down to 12 hours, running for an hour in the middle of the night, starting up in the midmorning and running through the peak solar heating times, shutting down for a few hours later afternoon and running for a couple more hours in the early evening. We have had a couple of green algae blooming scares in the past and don't really want to push this as hard as we could.

    So we have reduced our pool pump load alone by 16 kwh/day and from an estimated cost of $4/day down to about $2/day. If and when the pump requires replacing, we've been looking at the newer two speed pumps, lo (5 amps or 0.6kwh) and hi (11 amps or 1.2kwh). The $100US difference in price between them and the older full-on pumps will pay for itself in 3 or 4 months!

  • Step 3 - Cooling in the summer - make it a daily task of closing blinds on the east, south and western windows during the daytime and opening them up along with the windows to get airflow through to cool the house down at night.
  • Step 4 - turned off the electric heat in the garage - even though the thermostats were set for about 5deg C in an insulated two car garage, we did not realize how much power this ate up over a cold winter. Now it stays unheated and all liquids get moved into the house.

    Other Links

  • Natural Resources Canada *
  • HydroOneNetwork * Today's power demand in Ontario
  • Home Power * PrivatePower * Aztext Publishing Cam Mather out of Tamworth * Limestone School Board Projects
  • Queen's University at Kingston Solar Car * Goodwin Hall at Queen's 20kw array * ILC
    Kingston Ontario Canada: Renewable Energy of Plum Hollow * Hearthmaker's Energy Cooperative * Quantum Renewable Energy
    Enerworks * CanadianTire for solar accessories, batteries, cables
    Mr. Solar * picoturbine * Temp logger