Now that folks everywhere are discovering and utilizing the
advantages of solar heating, it’s not unusual to find solar applications everywhere from doghouses to office
buildings. Even the South Carolina Department of Mental
Health got into the act last year, when it installed a
solar collector system at one of its agencies . . . the
Earle E. Morris, Jr. Alcohol and Drug Addiction Center in
Columbia, South Carolina.
A three-year-old greenhouse at the Morris Village was
converted in January 1979 from No. 2 fuel oil to solar
heat as a demonstration project designed to reduce energy
costs. The active system, which was built in only two weeks
at an initial expense of $3,000, has proved to be more
cost-effective (and more dependable) than the oil furnace
that was used previously.
Unfortunately, exact figures aren’t yet available for the
savings in fuel expense over the structure’s first full
winter of “going solar.” But an administrator reports that,
between the new system’s installation on January 15 and
April 1, the greenhouse used “no oil of any consequence”.
And, although the folks at Morris Village need their solar
system mainly during the winter months, they’re planning to
modify it to obtain summer energy savings as well. Soon,
two nearby residence cottages will have the water in their
120 gallon heater tanks prewarmed by energy captured in the
solar collection panels.
The facility’s standard Quonset-shaped greenhouse — which is
30 feet wide and 64 feet long, and consists of two layers
of 4-mil plastic “skin” stretched over an aluminum
frame — was retrofitted by setting up ten solar collectors,
behind a ground cover, at a point eight feet away from the
greenhouse. The huge plates were then connected to two heat
exchangers (mounted in the top of the building), which
transfer the accumulated heat to a 550 gallon insulated
water tank located inside the solarium.
The greenhouse itself operates as part of a three-fold
therapy program for residents of the intensive care
treatment facility. Activities Director Barrett Patterson
tells us that the addiction rehab center’s inhabitants, who range
in age from 13 to 70 years, usually contract for a stay of
eight to 10 weeks … which includes a full schedule of
group, recreational, and occupational therapy.
Work in the greenhouse — growing vegetables as well as
flowers for Morris Village’s landscaping — is a primary
activity in the occupational therapy program. Furthermore,
since many of the residents come from rural areas, they can
return to their “agrarian roots” by participating in the
horticultural activities. So the basic reconstructive goals
of the Morris Addiction Center are realized … with a
little help from an operative solar greenhouse.