Tour of solar buildings

What is it like to produce your own electricity from the wind and the sun? To live with an independent energy system? Do you need to change your lifestyle? Will the system change the appearance of your home, or can it be blended into the design of your building? What does it cost? How much upkeep is needed? These and other questions will be answered during the National Tour of Solar Buildings.

Saturday, Oct. 6, buildings across the nation will be opened to interested visitors. The tour provides an opportunity to see firsthand energy systems that won’t run out of power, can’t have services cut off or withheld, that continue to function when neighbors lose power, and safeguard human health and protect the environment.

For the eighth consecutive year, northcentral Illinois residents will open their homes and buildings to the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. for the annual tour. Visit one or all of them on your own schedule. Owners will be available for the entire time to show their systems and answer questions.

Small wind generators such as those shown on the tour can generate electricity efficiently in many areas of Illinois. What is needed is a tower tall enough to avoid turbulence from surrounding buildings and trees, adequate wind and the generator. State rebates are available for wind systems. Check with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO).

Photovoltaic (solar electric) systems are more costly than wind, but are eligible for state rebates from DCEO. Full sunlight from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. is necessary to justify using solar electricity. A roof that accommodates a 2.5-kilowatt system could offset the annual pollution released by driving the family car for a year. Electrical demand soars in summer exactly when solar cells can produce their maximum electrical output. Homeowners can generate a portion of their electricity and still rely on the convenience of Commonwealth Edison’s delivery service. Solar heat and hot water systems are also very effective.

We hope you will take advantage of this interesting and informative event to see for yourself how solar energy works for real people in real places. Today’s visitors may be next year’s hosts.

Homes on the tour include:

Marlene Bertolozzi, 32960 Dawn Drive, Kingston: Hybrid photovoltaic and wind power system.

Jim Kohlart, 7834 Hoosier Road, Ashton, (456-3411): Hybrid photovoltaic and wind power system with battery backup. Three wind generators for comparisons.

Victor and Polly Zaderej, 3588 S. Daysville Road, Oregon (cell only): Super-insulated “one-watt” house built on German Passivhaus principles.

Bob and Sonia Vogl, 1230 E. Honey Creek Road, Oregon, (732-7332): Hybrid grid-connected photovoltaic and wind power system with battery backup; stand-alone (cabin type) photovoltaic installation.

David Merrill, 139 Perene, Byron, (234-2530): Hybrid photovoltaic and wind power system with battery backup.

Keith and Mary Blackmore, 9024 West Grove Road, Forreston, (938-3204): Ground-mounted photovoltaic system, super-insulated house, greenhouse.

Chuck Thorpe, 2273 N. Schlegel Road, Lena: Photovoltaic system.

Outside viewing only (do not enter property):

Ken and Janet Williams, 8234 Crestview Road, Stillman Valley: Wind turbine with 12-foot rotor diameter.

Joe and Anne O’Connell, 1276 Belvidere, Belvidere: Solar heat and hot water system.

Tom Peterson, 825 24th Ave., East Moline: Grid-connected photovoltaic system with battery backup.

Rich Maes, 1421 Mary Drive, Kewanee: Photovoltaic system.

School (outside viewing only):

Reagan Middle School, 620 Division St., Dixon: Largest ground-mounted solar installation on a school in Illinois.

Bob and Sonia Vogl’s new book, Living with Renewable Energy, which shares stories of many of the homes on the tour plus others, will be available at their home during the tour.

The national sponsor of the tour is the American Solar Energy Association. The Illinois sponsors are the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and the Illinois Solar Energy Association. IREA hosts the north-central Illinois tour.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair.

from the Sept. 26 – Oct. 2, 2007, issue

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