Utilizing the power of the Sun to provide energy for homes has developed into a fine art. This month, Energy Awareness Month, the American Solar Energy Society is coordinating the opening of hundreds of private homes across the country for public viewing.
People will be able to tour more than 800 homes and businesses powered by solar energy in 44 states and see first hand the benefits of the clean, nonpolluting power of the Sun.
The home and business owners will explain to visitors how photovoltaic cells for electricity and passive solar energy systems for heat work. Some homeowners will explain how they can sell electricity generated by their solar installations back to their local utility through a process known as net metering.
Especially in California, dealing with its energy crunch, the idea that sunny days can be turned into electricity is appealing. California Energy Commissioner Robert Pernell said, “Photovoltaic panels, small wind turbines, and fuel cells can be installed in existing structures or incorporated into new construction. These tours are a good way for homeowners who are interested in learning more about this type of energy technology to see the systems working, ask questions, and find out which system best suits their needs.”
This coming weekend, Oct. 13 and 14, the public is invited to visit private homes throughout Los Angeles that use solar technology. Solar homes in Santa Monica, Culver City, and Hollywood will be open on the Real Places For Real People tour, sponsored by the solar and renewable energy nonprofit organization Global Possibilities.
Casey Coates Danson, founding president of Global Possibilities, said, “The homes on this tour are making a great contribution to mitigating climate change by using solar energy. It will take the participation of many more individuals like these to make a substantial impact on climate change.”
Danson’s own 4,500-square-foot residence, a highlight of the tour, is the largest private residence in Los Angeles using solar technology. Also on Oct. 13, solar homes farther north in California will be open. Tours sponsored by the Northern California Solar Energy Association offer 35 sites in the East Bay, Silicon Valley, Contra Costa, and Santa Cruz featuring solar power, photovoltaic systems, solar water and space heating, passive solar, and green building materials.
“This is a great opportunity for the public to see how solar power can maximize home energy efficiency and why a home with renewable energy
is a good investment,” said Ed Nold, owner and founder of Green Home Design, a consulting firm specializing in putting environmental commitments into practice in residential construction projects.
California Congresswoman Jane Harman, a Democrat and a Venice Beach resident, recently added solar panels to her home. “It was not a tough
choice,” she said.” I live on the beach and the sun beats down on my roof almost every day. Photovoltaic technologies convert that energy to usable electricity with no polluting byproducts. Hopefully more people will choose clean, efficient solar over antiquated fossil
Pernell assures interested people on a tight budget, “Many renewable technologies that are available today for California homes and businesses are also eligible for a state rebate.”
Opportunities abound in other areas of the country. Near Chatanooga, Tenn., the Sequatchie Valley Institute is inviting people to tour its facilities, which model environmental sustainability. They feature hand-crafted passive solar buildings that utilize solar and wind-powered electricity. Surrounding the Center is a permaculture farm with edible landscaping integrated into the forest ecosystem.
In the nation’s capital, the Potomic Region Solar Energy Association is hosting the solar tour in cooperation with Sierra Club, Virginia Solar Council, and American Solar Energy Council. The tour will include the home of Mike Tidwell and Catherine Varchaver, which was featured in a Washington Post article on Oct. 6.
Even in cold North Dakota, a solar home will be open near Carson to display a solar-wind hybrid system. The tour is hosted by Dakota Solar Electric, which designs and installs solar-powered water systems for ranchers in North Dakota.
In conjunction with the Denver self-guided solar home tour, the National Renewable Energy Lab in nearby Golden, Colo., is hosting an exhibitor showcase featuring 25 local companies and organizations that provide renewable energy and energy efficiency products and services.