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Couple living solar life in Kentucky coal country

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David and Megan Kollar with their all-electric Nissan LEAF in front of their energy efficient and partially solar-powered home. [Photo Courtesy of David Kollar]

David Kollar comes from the Bluegrass Region of Kentucky and was born and raised on the Kentucky fields. Living all his life around nature, his love for green things has only expanded as he’s moved into mid-life.

“When I was young, I had access to the woods around our home, and spent much time exploring them,” says Kollar. “Now, nothing clears my mind like a long hike through the woods.  Who doesn’t enjoy connecting with nature?”

A television broadcast engineer, Kollar is one of Kentucky’s self-proclaimed “first settlers” in green energy. Not only has he moved towards a more sustainable way of living, but he is also pushing for change and awareness through his web page, Kyleaf.com.

One of the primary ways Kollar is living more sustainably is by tapping the energy of the sun, both via solar PV and solar thermal.

Off-grid solar
Kollar and his wife Megan have a 1.4 kW off-grid solar PV system and 10 large recycled batteries donated by a local Caterpillar field service technician previously used to provide back-up power for a local hospital. They also have a solar hot water system sized for two people.

In fact, a good portion of the solar kWh the couple produce with their solar PV system and/or indirectly by way of on-site energy conservation go to power an all-electric Nissan LEAF.

Although it seems impossible for only one individual to bring awareness and change on environmentally-friendly energy such as solar, Kollar works towards it by changing his lifestyle first.

“There are many ways you can save energy and become green, many of them are simple things that anyone can do and which don’t require a lot of technology, ” says Kollar.

Going green
One way the Kollars save energy and money is by line-drying their clothes and through using biomass to (wood) heat their home.

“Line-drying clothes, which is also low-tech solar power, saves us about 50 cents and 5.25 kWh a load,” Kollar explains. “Pretty awesome for a fifty dollar investment in lumber, rope, and clothespins.”

Not only do the Kollars line-dry their clothes and heat their home with an EPA qualified wood burning stove, they also have a SEER 16 heat pump, and an Energy Star clothes washer and refrigerator.

Our long-term goal is to obtain some land, and build a net zero home in the country. Once we retire, we could sustain ourselves nearly 100 percent off the land and sunshine.”

“I think that solar hot water should be mandatory for everyone,” says Kollar. “The payback is so quick that it doesn’t make sense for people not to have it. I think that people don’t do it because they are worried that they will wake up with cold water in the morning.”

Apart from having warm showers, he and his wife Megan commute to work every day with their energy-saving Nissan LEAF. Their car charges at night and some of the energy used to power it comes from their 1.4 kW off-grid solar PV.

“Kentucky Utilities provides power for our EV charging needs, and we are far more comfortable with that than using OPEC oil,” says Kollar.

His wife thinks that it is nice to be able to go to work every day on a full “tank” and not worry about stopping to fill up.

Challenges encountered
Throughout the couples’ process of going green, they have encountered some minor issues.

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Dave Kollar's logo for his KyLeaf.Com web site. [Graphics Credit: Dave Kollar]

“With the LEAF, the most challenging thing is planning your day to make sure you have enough battery, and that is not really an issue at all,” Kollar notes.

There are some initial obstacles that dissuade people from being able to acquire and use EVs and solar, he says.

“Often times, the issue is that people are scared to use EVs and solar energy mostly because of the initial cost and also because they are afraid they will not have enough battery life to drive the car around all day. With solar energy, they think that there won’t be enough solar power during the winter time to suffice,” Kollar explains.

Kollar notes that there are many ways around these problems.

For example, he explains how he and his wife try to use solar power most of the time. However, he notes they can always get electricity from the grid. Furthermore, the couple have a Toyota Prius they have modified into a plug-in hybrid on reserve for longer trips.

Kyleaf.com & bringing awareness
Becoming environmentally friendly himself doesn’t seem to be enough for Kollar. He seeks to raise awareness and help environmental progress throughout Kentucky.

Kyleaf.com is a web page created by Kollar that shares information about the couples’ progress and ideas and helps educate visitors about solar-charged driving.

Kollar also has a Kyleaf blog in which he includes information about the LEAF, other solar information, and also lists reasons for why EVs are positive for society.

Goals for the future
The progress to become 100 percent sustainable is long one, but David and Megan Kollar want to take on that challenge.

“Our long-term goal is to obtain some land, and build a net zero home in the country,” Kollar explains. “Once we retire, we could sustain ourselves nearly 100 percent off the land and sunshine.”

Currently, the need to work and sustain themselves prevents them from taking on such a mission, but once they retire – the couple is in their mid 40s, Kollar thinks they can accomplish their dream and even use the skills he learned on the farm to be self-sufficient.

“There’s plenty of time,” notes Kollar, “to plan the sustainable life that we want to enjoy in retirement.”

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