New Horizons: Sustainability in Action

We witness everyday the power of the sun at high altitude.  Merely step into the shade and you notice a significant difference in temperature.  The reason why the sun is more powerful here than other parts of earth is because of the decrease in atmosphere filtering the sun’s rays.  Let’s use it! Solar power is energy from the sun that is converted into thermal or electrical energy. Learn how at the Solar Fair, September 16th.

Humans have harnessed that energy for thousands of years.  Aeschylus of ancient Greece wrote, “Only primitives & barbarians lack knowledge of houses turned to face the Winter sun.”  Passive solar utilizes construction design and materials that are heated by the sun in winter, and shaded from the sun in summer.  The five elements of passive solar include: orientation with windows to the south, glass to let the sun in, mass to collect the sun’s heat like a battery, insulation to keep the heat inside, and ventilation for air movement.  Overhangs or deciduous trees block the summer sun and keep the home cool. Often passive solar homes include solar hot water heaters that can heat the floor or other hot water needs. No new home should be built without this design.  Existing homes can be modified to have passive solar aspects through proper insulation and extending a greenhouse on to the south side with a vent into the house, for example.

Baking and cooking are easy and free in a solar oven.  There are many different types from homemade designs to commercial styles.  They all have the same needs as any passive solar design: orientation, glass, mass, insulation and ventilation.  They are small, and extremely efficient, not to mention fun. This small act connects you to the sun and your environment.  I like baking breads and making soups in mine.

Photovoltaic (PV) devices generate electricity directly from sunlight via an electronic process that occurs naturally in certain types of material, called semiconductors. Electrons in these materials are freed by solar energy and can be induced to travel through an electrical circuit, powering electrical devices or sending electricity to the grid.  “If the roughly 40% growth rate of solar power from 2016 to 2017 continues for the next three years, the U.S. will be getting more than 5% of its power from the sun,” J. Weaver, 2018.

Renewable Energy Benefits: from

  1. Renewable fuels are reliable and renewable.
  2. The fuel is free
  3. The energy is clean and non-polluting
  4. Technologies are available that are required to convert renewable energy sources to useable energy.
  5. Renewable energy technologies are cost-competitive with conventional fuels.
  6. These technologies are decentralized sources of power.
  7. Technologies permit individuals to control their own power production.

Colorado has incentives to decrease the cost and encourage people to switch to solar.  For more information go to:  Colorado is also home to one of the best schools for technicians in this growing industry, Solar Energy International in Paonia (

Come to learn more about solar energy at the Solar Fair on September 16th from 11:00 am to 3:00 pm at Grandma Millers New Horizons.  We are partnering with Guy Larson from Simply Efficient LLC, our local solar energy expert.  There will be different photovoltaic systems available with guided tours explaining grid-tied and battery options, followed by a potluck from our solar and cob ovens.  Bring your notebook, a dish and your instruments. This event is free, although donations are accepted for the Grandma Miller’s Improvement Fund. For more information and to register for a tour, email Robyn at  


Robyn Wilson has degrees in International Business, Sustainable Communities, and Bilingual and Multicultural Education.  She teaches permaculture design at Colorado Mesa University, and returned to Grand County to manage the cabin community of Grandma Miller’s New Horizons.