Some great discussion on using renewables in Vermont.  I'm glad to see solar heating and renewable wood fuels being looked at.  Some observations I might add:  

        --All of us seem to agree that an Agressive energy conservation plan is essential.  Spend the first $1000 on sealing the basement and attic air leaks with expanding foam, etc.  Add cellulose insulation to the building envelope that is accessible (usually the attic...)  Next time you update / renew siding or drywall -- insulate the walls where you have access.  Get a thorough energy audit with blower door testing and perform all the recommendations.  This process and steps mentioned below may take years and $$ to accomplish but will yield amazing results.

        --Up-grade your windows when possible.  If old and leaky , change them.  If newer, perhaps you can caulk / seal around mouldings inside  the house to prevent air leaks around the window frames.  Adding storm windows to upgrade insulated glass windows to triple glazed can be done.  

        --The idea is to minimize the heat / energy loadsI  that renewables can help with.  

        --I have lived with an efficient , clean wood stove for over 30 years and can't imagine living without it.  Wood pellets are certainly cleaner and easier to store / handle than cords of firewood.. Someday there may be residential deliveries of wood pelletts similar to the way coal was delivered years ago  -- delivered into 'bins' at low cost for use in stoves or automated furnaces.  
                --Wood stoves that require electricity for fans, pellet augers, etc won't be available during a power outage  (just like most heating systems in use...)
                --Wood stoves / furnaces can also be installed with coils to heat the domestic hot water during the heating months -- This accessory to the wood heater would be worth looking into..

        --I like the way the homeowner has surveyed the south side of their house.   Sloping unshaded roof areas can be used for solar panels:  I would first recommend domestic hot water (you get to use these 12 months of the year -- solar heating panels only in the winter...)  When the time comes -- solar electric might be your option.

                --Keep the landscaping in control,  no trees on the south that bring shade.  Even deciduous trees will significantly shade the solar panels and / or windows on this side.  
                --Think ahead to the installation of solar panels on the roof,   Are there areas where pipes / wires can be run through the house to connect south facing roofs with the basement?  If remodeling rooms, you can even install piping or electrical conduit that will later be used to simplify a solar installation.  Consult with some installers first to assess the specifics...

        --Has any one mentioned Passive Solar ?  Your south wall can be a great solar collector.  Is there more space for larger windows?  You must be specific when getting glass for passive solar design:  The standard  Low E glass  used by most window manufacturers (Marvin, Pella, Andersen, etc etc) is mostly designed to minimize solar heat gain.  (for airconditioning climates)  You may need to get premium windows that offer maximum 'Solar Heat Gain Factor' with high R-value.  (perhaps triple glazed?  )  Insulated window coverings can also help but can get expensive.  Attached sunspace / greenhouse can get you winter solar gain yet allow you to isolate / close off the space at night.  More money, but the extra space, greenhouse growing, is the payoff.  

        --Have any solar hot water installers responded with ideas on the original query??  I hope to hear more from them too.  

Hope these suggestions are helpful.   It's great to see the discussion progress.  

Dennis Bates,  Vermont Sun Structures