Clear skies and bright fall sunshine provided an appropriate backdrop to Saturday’s 4th Annual Berea Solar Tour.

More than 300 people viewed some or all of the 13 solar homes and businesses open to the public, gaining first-hand information about a variety of solar systems.

Solar electric (photovoltaic) and solar hot water systems, passive solar house designs, daylighting, wood stoves and even a solar oven were among the uses of solar energy displayed on the tour.

The tour kicked-off with a presentation on home solar energy by Mark Jeantheau, a member of the board of Sustainable Berea. Jeantheau made a compelling case for the value of adding solar energy and energy conservation features to your home.

“Global oil production has peaked, and coal and natural gas production are nearing a peak,” Jeantheau said. “As energy prices increase — and we’ve already seen increased prices for electricity — solar energy becomes more economically attractive.”

Jeantheau referred to last January’s ice storm and blackout as evidence that many Berea homes lack resilience, the ability to withstand energy shocks.

“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.

About 35 people rode the “Berea trolley bus” for a guided tour of several of the solar homes led by Josh Bills, energy analyst with the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED). Bills’ commentary included suggestions on how to make solar energy for the home more affordable.

“The 30 percent federal tax credit for solar energy installations makes this a good time to consider a solar hot water or solar electric system,” Bills said.

Organized by Sustainable Berea with support from MACED and the Kentucky Solar Energy Society, the Berea Solar Tour is part of Sustainable Berea’s effort to promote greater use of local renewable energy sources.

“By reducing the amount of money we send out of the community to pay for energy, we strengthen our local economy while increasing community resilience,” said Dr. George Schloemer, Sustainable Berea board member. “It’s a win-win situation.”

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