New From Amish Builders: The Solar Shed (Updated)

Amish builders in Maine have teamed with a non-Amish business to create a “solar shed”.

If you didn’t know, many Amish themselves are avid users of solar power, with the sun-guzzling panels visible on homes and barns and even on buggy rooftops.

They use them to power batteries, lights, or electric fences, for instance. As Maine Amishman Joas Hochstetler explains:

“Solar is pretty passive, there’s no moving parts, you don’t have to feed it, it doesn’t take gas,” Hochstetler said. “We’ve already made the decision to not be on the grid […] so the benefits of solar for us are just endless.”

Combining solar with Amish craftsmanship also turns out to be a business opportunity.

The company Hochstetler manages, a Unity, Maine Amish outfit called Backyard Builders, have partnered with a non-Amish company to create a shed with a roof covered in solar paneling.

Photo by Gabor Degre/BDN

The article in the Bangor Daily News reads a bit like an advertisement, but it’s a nice example of how Amish businesses evolve and incorporate new ideas to serve an often non-Amish market.

The impression you get is that this is a new concept, though I wouldn’t be surprised if there are others doing it. In any case, here the idea came from the non-Amish side:

So when Matt Wagner of Insource Renewables approached him in January about teaming up to produce a shed that was equipped with the same solar technology found on traditional roof-mounted systems, Hochstetler was sold.

“We’ve talked about it before but didn’t have a reputable company to collaborate with, or the solar expertise,” Hochstetler said. “I like the principle of solar, so I would gladly do work in a field that will generate more solar power for the state.”

So if you’re into solar, might be a nice thing to have in your backyard. Apparently the panels on the shed can scoop enough solar energy to provide power for your entire home.

I’m still not a fan of how solar panels look on a roof (ugly!) so maybe sticking them on a shed in the backyard and a little more out-of-view is the way to go.

Also, thanks to companies like Tesla, we’re now seeing more aesthetic solutions like solar tiles that look just like regular roof material. Maybe that’s the next evolution of this idea for the Amish.

UPDATE: And yes, it is true that these Maine Amish are not the only ones in this business. A reader shares a solar shed built recently by the northern Indiana company he works for:



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    1. Alice Mary

      It's a "natural"!

      I WISH someone could hook up my shed to gather solar power! It’s 10′ x 12′ and in the sun most of the day (in spring & summer, at least). I have tried to find “simple” solar instructions (if I could re-charge a battery that runs a small backyard fountain, and provide light/electricity for the shed, I’d be happy.) But from the research I’ve done, solar is expensive to install…I wonder if it would “pay for itself” in what’s left of my lifetime (I’ll be 65 come Fall). What I need is an Amish installation crew nearby—or one that travels the country to do “odd jobs” at a reasonable price!

      Alice Mary

      1. Sounds like it’s already in the right spot Alice Mary 🙂 I think the time needed to pay for itself is dependent on factors like location and the type of installation you have. This article from a homeowner who installed 40+ panels goes into pretty good depth. He says his break even point is 7.3 years:

    2. Garage - detached single story 1.5 bay

      Hi there,
      Wondering if you build garages? We would like to have a garage built this summer. We are looking for someone to do the cement slab, build garage if possible and do the roof. Please let us know if this is something you do or if you could recommend someone that does? Thank you, John + Rita Spencer

    3. David Allison

      Solar Installations

      I understand that some in the Amish and/or Mennonite community may have begun businesses that install solar systems for homes and small businesses. Could this website begin a business category for this?

      We live about an hour south of Traverse City, Michigan and are searching for such a business.