Mark your calendar for the Oct. 4 Solar Tour!

By Dr. Sonia Vogl

Saturday, Oct. 4, the annual north central Illinois Solar Tour will be held. Seven homes and buildings will be open for visitors who are interested in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Owners will be available to discuss their systems and answer questions.

All but one home, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will be open from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.

The tour is free and open to the public. No advance registration is required. Visitors simply stop at the homes that are of interest to them — one or all.

Sites on this year’s tour, from southeast to northwest, are as follow:

• Bob and Sherry Piros, 4585 S. Chana Road, Chana, Illinois (815-732-7020): large photovoltaic system on barn roof; new house with geothermal heating and cooling; prairie restorations. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. only.

• Bob and Sonia Vogl, 1230 E. Honey Creek Road, Oregon, Illinois (815-732-7332): Hybrid grid-connected photovoltaic and wind power system with battery backup; three separate PV installations; stand-alone (cabin-type) photovoltaic installation. Solar greenhouse and hoop house. Wood heat using wood collected from the property. Woodland and prairie restorations.

• Kickapoo Nature Center, 1919 N. Limekiln Road, Oregon, Illinois (cell only): Super insulated “1-watt” building built on German Passivhaus principles. Includes earth tube for fresh air intake. Conventional metal roof acts as a solar collector. Concrete floor used as a heat sink.

• David Merrill, 139 Perene, Byron, Illinois (815-234-2530): Hybrid photovoltaic and wind power system with battery backup. PV and wind installer.

• Bruce Roe, 5719 E. Skinner Road, Stillman Valley, Illinois (815-234-8039): Photovoltaic system with two installations to test production in relation to time of use: one facing south; one facing east and west. Projects include eliminating wasted kWh, attempts to construct solar panels, and more.

• Keith and Mary Blackmore, 9024 W. Grove Road, Forreston, Illinois (815-938-3204): Ground-mounted photovoltaic system, super-insulated house, solar heated greenhouse; solar Japanese-style outdoor shower.

• Klaus Hoffman, 8232 Pueblo Drive, Rockford (815-721-4490): Solar hot water using evacuated tubes, provides about 75 percent of hot water needs, since 2007. Photovoltaics providing more electricity than actually used, now gridtied, started as a backup system more than 10 years ago. Only efficient lighting (mostly LED). Added insulation and modern windows (not yet completed project). Wood heat providing 50 percent of heating. Rain water collection for plant watering.

The north central Illinois Solar Tour is hosted by the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) as a public service. IREA is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. Visit

From the Oct. 1-7, 2014, issue

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