Bark House

Project Profile

2015

Solar Electric
  • Spruce Pine, NC
  • December 2011
  • Solar Electric
Bark House

Two arrays will produce upwards of 32,293 kilowatt hours of clean electricity a year for Bark House, a business that strives to be as sustainable as possible. The roof of the main building is filled with ninety three 235 watt Kyocera photovoltaic modules. This array is grid-tied through three SMA 7000 watt inverters and a sell-meter as part of Progress Energy’s Commercial SunSense Program. A smaller 5 kW system is mounted on a processing barn across the street. Twenty 240 watt modules and a SMA Sunny Boy 5000 watt inverter feed it to the grid as a generating partner with NC GreenPower.

See feature from our May 2012Newsletter for more.

571 tree seedlings grown for 10 years sequester the amount of carbon that is offset by the solar electric systems recently installed by Bark House in Spruce Pine, NC. Another equivalency figure that EPA’s offset calculator gave that is particularly relevant in this instance is that the combined system capacity of 25 kW will offset the amount of carbon sequestered annually by 4.7 acres of pine or fir forest. How many poplar trees this equates to I wasn’t able to figure, but it is this lovely deciduous tree upon which Chris and Marty McCurry have built their thriving business over the course of the last 22 years.

The inspiration for using bark as siding came from the historic structures in Linville, NC where Chestnut bark was used in several buildings nearly 100 years ago. When the McCurry’s delved into reclaiming bark from Poplar that was being harvested in the area for their first project, they found themselves reengineering the process to produce shingles that would be durable (they can last up to 100 years) as a building material in modern construction. This involved redesigning bark spuds, the tool used in stripping bark from the tree, from examples found in antique stores, to formulating the kiln drying process.

Using material that was previously a waste and turning it into a valuable product is gratifying to Chris and Marty, but they are committed to a larger picture of sustainability as their Gold level Cradle to Cradle Certification attests. This rating system, created to support companies in creating products that are “more good” rather than “less bad,’’ assesses a product on 5 categories- material reutilization, material health, clean water, social responsibility, and renewable energy. Chain of Custody certification from the Forestry Stewardship Council verifies that the bark coming in from their hundreds of vendors, who have received training in sustainable forestry, is done responsibly. 90% of the material they receive comes from within 100 miles, which has had a positive economic impact on the region which has lost most of its textile industry. Natives of the region, Chris and Marty are active in community revitalization projects and are proud of the impact their business has had on local economic development.

As to renewable energy, thanks to a NC Green Business Fund Grant awarded in 2011, Bark House was able to take the next big step and go solar, having previously tackled efficiency measures. The two arrays will produce upwards of 32,293 kilowatt hours of clean electricity a year, which accounts for the electricity used in their operations for saws and other tools, the kilns, and in the office, according to Marty. The roof of the main building is filled with ninety three 235 watt photovoltaic modules, manufactured by Kyocera. A ballasted racking system by SolarDock tilts the modules to 25° for optimal generation. To reduce wind loading, this racking system is closed from behind, with venting that allows air to circulate. This array is grid-tied through three SMA 7000 watt inverters and is metered through a sell-meter as part of Progress Energy’s Commercial SunSense Program. A smaller 5 kW system is mounted on a newly constructed pole barn across the street, which functions as a processing facility. Twenty 240 watt modules are neatly flush-mounted to the roof on Unirac racking, and a SMA Sunny Boy 5000 watt inverter feeds it to the grid. This array is a generating partner with NC GreenPower.

Bringing solar into their operations has been a natural progression of the McCurry’s commitment to sustainability, and likewise, Bark House’s product line has also seen expansion. Today, a full line of architectural elements crafted from trees of various species are sold globally. Check out this video to see how Bark House shingles were used on ASU’s award-winning Solar Homestead, or pick up a copy of Chris’ beautiful book, co-authored with Nan Chase, ‘Bark House Style; Stustainable design from Nature for a visual treat. Of course, their website, www.barkhouse.com, is full of information if you’d like to learn more.