The Colorado mountains are known to see nearly 300 days of sun a year. This Saturday, Oct. 2, people living in the Roaring Fork Valley, near Aspen, will be able to tour homes and businesses in Garfield County that are making the best use of that solar energy.
“The idea is educate the general public by showing them how solar has been applied in households and businesses in their area,” said April Clark, the marketing and communications coordinator for Solar Energy International, one of the partnering organizations behind the tour.
Clark said the event has been going on in the valley for years. It used to concentrate on homes, but nowadays there are some business and government buildings that are shining examples of good solar energy use.
One is the Third Street Center in Carbondale, a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certified structure with loads of solar panels glimmering on its roof.
Another highlight on the tour will be the newly functioning Clean Energy Collective in El Jebel. When it opened last month, it became the country’s first community-owned solar garden. Producing 77.7 kilowatts of solar power at its peak, the individuals who bought into the garden for as little as $3.15 a kilowatt are being paid $0.11 per kilowatt by Holy Cross Energy, the local utility.
Clark said that the people who go on the solar tour have hundreds of questions ranging from what solar energy is to what is the difference between a solar panel and a solar array.
“They want to know how much it costs to do it themselves,” Clark said. “That’s one of the first things people ask.”
She said industry experts, including installers, will assemble at the Third Street Center to answer questions.
The tour in Garfield County, Colorado, is just one of 647 taking place in 48 states next month. The American Solar Energy Society has been organizing these tours for 15 years with partner organizations like the ones in Garfield County.
The Society estimates that more than 160,000 participants will visit about 5,500 buildings the first Saturday of this October.
To see a map and details about solar tours in your area, visit: http://nationalsolartour.org/find-tour/find-tour