|Writing Sample by Liz Milner
Printed in the Utility Photovoltaic Group Record, Spring, 2000
A Solar Theater Rises From a Barn's Ashes
What began as a simple barn renovation has become the State of Virginia's
largest solar power array and power system thanks to the vision of
a Loudoun County community group.
The group, known as the Barns of Franklin Park, Inc., had planned to
build Loudoun County's first theater in an abandoned dairy barn at
a 240-acre county park. When the barn burned down, they seized the
opportunity to design and build a unique, energy-efficient, environmentally
friendly, solar showcase. The building, which will be completed this
summer, will serve as a theater, astronomical observatory, solar energy
learning center, and community center. The engineering departments
of several Virginia Universities—including George Mason, University
of Virginia, and Virginia Military Institute—will use the building
to teach solar energy principles to students.
Architect Clint Goode and lighting designer/consultant Alden Hathaway
designed a 100-percent renewable energy building. The Barns at Franklin
Park will be powered by a 70-kilowatt photovoltaic array with a storage
capacity of 200 kilowatt-hours. Old Mill Power Company, headquartered
in Charlottesville, Virginia, will install the array which is composed
of 2,050 43-watt BP Solarex modules. In addition to giving the group
a discount on the modules, UPVG member BP Solarex donated the engineering
services to design the solar array and also will be donating some installation
coordination. The two-foot by four-foot panels will be installed in
a half moon shape on an earth embankment at the side of the building.
Volunteers from the community will assist with the installation, which
will take place as soon as weather permits. The panels will be connected
to a springhouse building that will house all the solar equipment.
Old Mill Power will own and maintain the solar power system and will
sell any power not needed by the theater to the county. The building
itself will be the property of Loudoun County.
The barn was hand-raised by volunteers from the Timber Framers' Guild
of North America. No trees were cut down for the bam construction;
instead, hundred-year-old Douglas fir beams recovered from the St.
Lawrence Seaway were used. The 9,000-square-foot building will house
a 300-seat, public performing arts theater that will open this summer.
The auditorium and 1,000-foot stage were designed to meet the special
needs of an award-winning performing arts group.
The building will also have an astronomy observatory and lab and a
solar energy learning center. With the help of a computer and a large
screen projector, images from the observatory's telescope can be projected
into the auditorium, giving the audience a chance to see the universe
in action. Meanwhile, meters in the lobby will give visitors an opportunity
to observe another sort of solar system at work.
The building will cost $2.7 million to complete. The Barns at Franklin
Park, Inc., has already raised $2.1 million through in-kind donations,
grants, and fundraising. Kathy Donovan, a founder and Volunteer Special
Events Director, says that being named an EPA Showcase Project in 1999
opened a lot of doors for the group. She also credits the work of U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency staffer Eric Van Gestel, who brought
her group together with manufacturers. With Van Gestel's help, they
raised $750,000 in equipment donations by bringing their wish list
to manufacturers one by one. The manufacturers saw the Barns as a showcase
for their products and were eager to donate. The project also received
a Virginia Alliance for Solar Electricity (VASE) Grant of $280,000.
For further information contact The Barns at Franklin Park, 540.338.7973.