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Building a Solar Shed: Case Study

By: Dr Gareth Evans - Updated: 21 Apr 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Shed Solar Lights Garden Allotment Solar

Bob Stewart’s solar shed really came about by chance. “It started out as a bit of fun,” he explains, “I wanted to build a new shed up at the top end of the garden, but I really couldn’t face running the power all the way up there – especially when my neighbour told me I’d have to get an electrician in to do it all legally. So I began wondering if I could get by with a bit of solar lighting – and it’s sort of snowballed from there!”

Putting up the shed itself didn’t present any problems; a trip to his local DIY centre and an afternoon with the help of his son-in-law, Geoff, soon saw the new building nailed and screwed together and ready for action. Getting the lighting right, however, was to prove a bit more of a challenge.

“I’d promised myself I’d make a bit of a vegetable plot once I retired, with a shed to potter about in. Nothing fancy, but it was going to need a light, especially once the days start to draw in. So off I went to the DIY shop again.”

Finding The Right Light

Faced with a selection of solar shed lights, every single one of which were absolutely perfect for the job – at least according to their boxes – and in the absence of anyone at the shop who had any actual experience of those particular products, Bob just picked the one that appealed most. Having mounted it exactly as the instructions said, connected all the parts together and awaited the requisite sunny day for it to charge up, come nightfall, Bob clicked the switch with eager anticipation.

“It was pitiful,” he laughs. “It was like something out of Dickens – about as much light as a tiny, little candle. Talk about Scrooge!”

Convinced he simply hadn’t given it enough time to charge up fully, he left it for another few days, certain that this time all would be well; it wasn’t. Several attempts later – and by now, since Bob felt too embarrassed to keep returning lamps to the shop, he was beginning to amass something of a collection – his internet researches led him to a specialist company. “it was great,” he explains, “I got some fantastic advice and best of all, a great light.”

One became two, and then three as Bob added PIR-equipped, motion-detecting solar lights to illuminate the approach path to his new shed and the dark little corner by his compost heap. “I’d really been bitten by the bug and these lights come with such a good length of wire between the PV cell and the unit that you can position the cells to get the most sunshine and still have the lamp pointing exactly where you want it to light. They really are incredible. It’s just like having mains.”

Community Project

His enthusiasm for his new lights soon spread the word to friends and relatives – he jokes that he ought to have been on commission – and it wasn’t long before one of his neighbours, head of the local allotment committee, paid him a visit. It seemed they’d really been taken by the whole idea and wanted to try to do something like it on their allotments.

The upshot was to see Bob’s shed become a sort of unofficial proving ground for a range of green technologies – everything from the original lights to solar-powered irrigation systems, water recycling and a mini-wind turbine – which other gardeners have subsequently adopted. The final touch is soon to be added with the arrival of a small scale PV unit, which will shortly be mounted onto the south facing aspect of his shed roof – the result of a little local sponsorship and the support of the allotment holders, who are awaiting the results of the trial with considerable interest. If all goes according to plan, it should open up the possibility of generating enough renewable power for more than just lights and a few gadgets to be run.

“It’s funny how it’s all come out of such a little start”, says Bob. “I only wanted some light and that’s turned into a bit of a community project; it’s just grown and grown.”

What was that old saying about oak trees and acorns...................................?

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