In 2013, Lighthouse Solar worked with Dorsey Barger of HausBar Urban Farm & GuestHaus to incorporate solar into their east Austin farm. It is a sustainable urban farm in East Austin raising vegetables and offering vacation rental space, day camps, and workshops.
But it is much more, as we discovered. Their commitment to investing in solar power to offset the majority of the facilities’ power needs led to some very interesting benefits that solar can offer. Their efforts also firmly demonstrated the power of integrated thinking and of a comprehensive vision for tackling the question of how renewable energy and sustainable design can enhance our quality of life.
Their commitments add up to more than a sustainable operation. They are demonstrating how a commitment to independence leads to a greater form of interdependence and community building.
“We’re installing solar panels over a pole barn to provide the entire farm, residence, and guesthouse with 90% of its electrical needs.
Our farmhouse is a City of Austin 5-Star Green home.
We have 30,000 gallons of rainwater capture storage, which we use to drip irrigate our crops.
We have our own organic vegetable garden.
We raise our own meat and eggs.
We compost all vegetable matter and recycle all recyclables from our home, farm, and guesthouse.
We don’t use any gas-powered equipment anywhere on our property. Our donkeys mow and fertilize our pasture, and a solar-powered lawn company mows the guesthouse lawn. Four years ago we dug 51 vegetable garden beds ourselves with pitchforks and shovels.
We started HausBar Farm in 2009 with the dream of designing an insanely sustainable way of living. We wanted to grow our own vegetables, raise our own hens for eggs, and raise and process our own chickens and rabbits for meat. We also wanted to design a dream house that would have sustainability built into every part of its design.”
The solar solution arrived out of conversation with Dorsey about her rabbits. Raising rabbits in central Texas is difficult. If the heat doesn’t overpower the young rabbits, the hawks snatch them up. The mobile hutches they had created to protect the rabbits were working but were still very hot.
Solar provides a unique double advantage: Power from the sun and protection from the sun. It was just what Dorsey and the rabbits could use. We collaborated to design a 25 KW solar array as the roof on a pole barn that provided a cover for the rabbits and a place of shade to the north of their expansive gardens.
To date, the solar system is providing over 60% of the entire facility needs and, on many days, the farm is exporting clean power to the community. How Hausbar feeds their community is multidimensional and enduring. They are paying the sun forward.