Embracing Solar Power

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For Casey Coates Danson, it started as a simple need for natural light; there never seemed to be enough inside her homes. Then, as an environmental design student at the Parsons School of Design in New York in the 1970s, she learned to appreciate how the Anasazi and the master builders of the Renaissance incorporated natural materials into their designs for self-sufficient cities. Then, as news of the expanding hole in the ozone layer came to light in the 1980s, her consciousness about the destructive nature of how we heat and power our homes expanded exponentially.

“Who I am, for whatever reason, has always felt concern for the environment,” Danson says.

All these pieces converged three years ago, when Danson founded Global Possibilities, a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing Americans’ dependency on fossil fuel and mitigating climate change by promoting solar energy. Through national conferences, educational initiatives, and public outreach, Danson seeks to remind people that the sun is a virtually untapped source of free, constant energy. “We are a product of the sun; the earth is fed by the sun,” she says. “Why aren’t we using it? Hello?”

While Global Possibilities is now Danson’s focus, she has left a more tactile legacy in the form of two solar homes that she designed and built in 1991. Her own 1,500-square-foot, Pueblo-style adobe home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and a grand, 7,000-square-foot contemporary Los Angeles home now occupied by a family of seven prove that the sun’s energy can be used to power houses at any end of the design spectrum.

Check out the January/February 2000 issue of Natural Home for more about Ms. Danson’s solar homes and the use of solar energy, including:

  • the history of solar energy use from ancient Rome to modern society
  • photovoltaic cells
  • recent advances in solar technology