Solar Tour Opens Doors to Sustainable Living

Rain or shine on Saturday, October 4, the 8th Annual National Solar Tour takes place with more than 1,200 homes, businesses and public buildings open to visitors in 480 communities across the U.S. Organized by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES), headquartered in Boulder, Colorado, the tour is expected to draw as many as 30,000 visitors nationwide.

Boulder, Colorado – October 3, 2003 [SolarAccess.com] Visitors across the country can tour homes that look “normal,” but are constructed in ways that protect the environment, and at the same time, utilize natural clean renewable energy offered up by Mother Nature. Tour guests will learn more about the choices made by the environmentally conscious and thrifty homeowner-hosts, who satisfy their energy needs through solar panels, wind turbines, solar hot water, passive solar design, super-insulation, and more. Strategies for integrating solar into buildings and the benefits (such as lowering electric utility costs and increasing comfort for building residents) will be discussed in detail. “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.” Nationally, many of the tours will showcase a variety of buildings, such as traditional city and suburban homes with solar features, schools and business offices integrating passive solar design, solar hot water and solar-electric generating systems, and rural homes not connected to the public utility grid. “Not only will this tour be educational, but it can show homeowners how renewable energy can liberate them from complete dependence on big power generating companies,” said ASES Events and Development Director Cynthia Nelson. “In the aftermath of the recent power outages that disabled parts of North America and Italy, the tour can demonstrate to homeowners how renewable technology can be easily utilized as protection from blackouts that are in part caused by a power grid is stretched to its limits.” 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 homeowners 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 global warming or cause pollution when it is imported and transported yet again. In Peterborough, New Hampshire, Ned Eldredge, will open his doors to visitors, who wish to see his home built in the early 1980’s that is super-insulated and specially designed so that rooms can be closed off during the winter months to conserve heat. But the real highlight is Eldrege’s recently installed 100-foot tall, 10-kW wind turbine that generates enough power, so even though Eldrege is on the grid, he pays very little in electricity bills. “I’ve gone the last eight months without any public service juice,” said Eldredge, who not only powers his home with electricity generated by the turbine, but also is able to also run his workshop’s welder, planer and power saws off of wind power. The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (NESEA) is holding their second annual Green Buildings Open House in conjunction with national ASES tour. According to Meghan Houlihan, NESEA’s Renewable Energy Program Director, the Green Buildings Open House is designed to demystify green buildings, demonstrating that they are comfortable, attractive, and affordable. “Exemplary green buildings are at work throughout the Northeast,” said Houlihan. “This event gives people the chance to meet directly with others who are reducing their energy bills and making environmentally responsible choices by incorporating renewable energy, recycled and non-toxic building materials, and much more into their homes, schools, and work places.” NESEA has more than 275 homes, businesses, and public buildings open to visitors in communities throughout the northeast on their itinerary. In addition to home tours, solar cooking competitions, solar boat, bike and car races, and discussions will be held as part of this year’s event including: – A Denver, Colorado resident, who has recouped his investment in his suburban three-bedroom, two-bath home through a passive solar design that provides a comfortable, light-filled house year-round. – 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 – A Los Angeles, California, 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 – A North Dakota tour will host as their keynote speaker, Native American environmental activist and actor Floyd Red Crow Westerman, who played Chief Ten Bears in Kevin Costner’s “Dances with Wolves.” – Tours throughout the U.S. will include examples of straw bale construction, dome, and earth-sheltered homes. Anyone participating in the tour may enter to win a prize suitable for the home or business. San Diego, California-based Solar Electric Inc., coordinated the donation of a complete solar electric system that is worth over US$11,000 as a grand prize for the 2003 National Solar Tour. The winner will receive a 2000-Watt solar electric system with a Xantrex inverter. In addition, C&D Technologies has donated a battery storage system for off-grid applications. Other prizes include books and videos pertaining to sustainable energy. Tour attendees can complete a prize drawing entry form and drop in off any one of the on-site boxes or mail the entry into ASES at the address on the entry form. To find a National Solar Tour coordinator in your area, please visit the ASES web site or pick up a copy of the September/October issue of Solar Today, the award-winning, bi-monthly magazine published by ASES. Solar Today can be found at many book and magazine stores, as well as purchased online through the ASES web site. For more information on specific homes and buildings on the free tour in the New England area that are part of the 2003 Green Buildings Open House go to the NESEA website and follow links to specific states in the region.
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