The American Solar Energy Society’s (ASES) 8th Annual National Solar Tour will kick off Saturday, October 4, with more than 1,200 homes, businesses and public buildings open to visitors in hundreds of communities across the U.S. Participants will have the opportunity to see first-hand the successful use of many forms of renewable energy including passive solar designs, solar thermal and solar-electric generating systems in a variety of buildings.Boulder, Colorado, September 5, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Visitors will have a chance to discuss integrating solar into buildings and the benefits-such as lowering electric utility costs by as much as 60 percent and increasing comfort for building residents-will be discussed in detail. This year’s tour is expected to draw as many as 30,000 visitors nationwide. Tour attendees will also have the opportunity to win a free 2 kW solar electric system with inverter and battery backup worth over US$11,000. Last year, more than 26,000 people toured 1,222 homes, schools and other buildings in 44 states. “The National Solar Tour gives people the chance to meet directly with others who have incorporated solar design features in their buildings and use photovoltaic energy in their daily lives,” said Brad Collins, ASES Executive Director. “Visitors can experience the comfort of increased daylight in buildings, learn about the benefits of solar and other forms of renewable energy, watch electric meters run backwards, and see the actual savings on utility bills in buildings in their community.” The tour features a variety of buildings, such as traditional city and suburban homes with solar features, business offices integrating passive solar design and solar-electric generating systems, and rural homes not connected to the public utility grid. In addition to solar cooking competitions, solar boat, bike and car races, examples of tours and discussions to be held as part this year’s event include: – The owner of three-bedroom, two-bath home in suburban Denver who has recouped his investment in passive solar design strategies many times over and enjoys a comfortable, light-filled house year-round; – A New Hampshire couple who live in the “home of their dreams” in a beautiful house powered entirely with a mix of solar energy and energy from other renewable sources; – A large medical office in Eastern Texas that integrates daylighting strategies and solar electric generating systems to create a welcoming, highly efficient environment for staff and for patients; and – A Los Angeles family that meets almost 50 percent of their daily electric needs using solar panels placed on a small part of the roof on their one-story home. Tour coordinators are working in communities nationwide to organize visits to solar buildings in each area. In addition to receiving tour maps and background materials on solar energy, tour participants can talk with home owners and business owners about why and how they integrated solar designs into their buildings. Like many of the first-time attendees on the National Solar Tour, a number of the people showing their homes or businesses knew little or nothing about solar design and solar electric generation before deciding to integrate it into their buildings. Having made the decision to go solar, building owners report satisfaction not only with their buildings and energy costs, but also with the fact that they are producing energy that does not add to the pollution problem as it is imported and transported around the country. More information, including locating tour coordinators in various areas, can be found at the following link.