As the only city in Kentucky to have a community-owned solar farm, Berea’s eighth-annual Solar Tour scheduled Saturday is an opportunity to see how solar energy already is being in used in Berea, as well as its potential use in everyday households.
But this year, the Solar Tour will be accompanied by the first Resilient Community Fair, which will include educational booths to provide practical information people can use to make their houses, neighborhood and communities more resistant to environmental and economic impacts, said Cheyenne Olson of Sustainable Berea, the community organization hosting the event.
The event also will feature plenty of food, entertainment and activities for all citizens ― even the furry four-legged ones (see below for details).
Teaching people how to grow their own food and use alternative energy sources are just a few steps to building a resilient community, Olson said.
“A resilient community is one that is closely knit, where people know their neighbors, where the elderly and children are included, where food is grown and shared, and where people live with considerably less energy from fossil fuels,” she said.
A resilient community also is one in which you can “enjoy walking, biking and creating art and music without having to drive out of town for entertainment,” she added. A resilient community can thrive if the “(electrical) grid is blown or if the trucks stop coming in with food.”
Olson said one of the biggest reasons for hosting the fair is to bring people together to have conversations about what they want to see in their own town.
Representatives from the Berea Planning Commission also will be at the fair to collect input from Berea residents regarding land use throughout the city (see below for details).
8th-annual Solar Tour
The Solar Tour provides a look at some of the city’s “best examples of solar households,” said Richard Olson of Sustainable Berea.
The solar events kick off at 8:30 a.m. at the Berea College Appalachian Center, 205 N. Main Street, with coffee, pastries and the chance to chat with a variety of people interested in solar energy.
At 9 a.m., local resident Mark Jeantheau will draw on his years of personal experience to describe steps that any person can take to make their household more resilient in the face of economic or environmental shake-ups.
During the 2009 Solar Tour, Jeantheau talked about the January 2008 ice storm that hit Kentucky and left many without power for weeks.
“Our electrical grid is in poor shape, and more power outages are inevitable. A well insulated house with a wood stove and a battery back-up system to run some lights and the refrigerator will come through the next winter power failure just fine,” he said.
A stop at Jeantheau’s home is part of the Solar Tour, which will be lead by Josh Bills, a solar energy expert with Mountain Association for Community Economic Development.
The tour bus is scheduled to depart at 10 a.m. from the Appalachian Center. The first stop is the Berea Municipal Solar Farm, which Bills helped to design. This 28,200 kW system, the only community solar installation in Kentucky, gives Berea Municipal Utility customers the ability to lease individual solar panels and receive credit for solar electricity on their utility bill.
The bus will then stop at Jeantheau’s resilient household for an in-depth look at all types of residential solar energy as well as rainwater capture, household food production and food storage.
For a self-guided tour, five solar households will be open between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tour sites include an older retrofitted solar house, a new house designed for solar, and a household that sits at the center of a permaculture farm. One of the households includes a solar greenhouse containing an aquaponics system producing tilapia and vegetables.
All events are free except the guided bus tour, which is $5 per ticket with reservations strongly recommended.
For bus tickets, call Sustainable Berea at 985-1689.
Complete information about the solar tour, descriptions of each tour site, and a map are available at www.sustainableberea.org. Maps may also be found at Berea Coffee and Tea in Berea, and Babylon Café and Elvira’s restaurant in Richmond.