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Civic Impact

Doing everything on sunshine but walking: local Solar Tour

"We want to make a point that solar energy isn't just in California, but that it's all over Western Pennsylvania, in great quantities," says Evan Endres, project coordinator in PennFuture's local office. "Whatever neighborhood you're in, there's solar."
That's the reason PennFuture -- Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future -- has created the Pittsburgh Solar Tour on Oct. 13, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., guiding those interested in installing solar themselves, or simply in seeing creative uses, through homes and businesses in Allegheny County and beyond. A $5 ticket available online covers all the self-guided stops and the same tour Website has a full-color guide, map and smartphone app. The Solar Tour highlights 30 of the approximately 300 solar sites in the 10-county region.

"We could have put the most spectacular green homes on the tour, but that's not the experience most Pittsburghers are likely to have," says Endres. Instead, for most people, he hopes the tour lets them see homes that make them think, "'This is [like] my house. I want to go talk to the person and see how they did it.'"
Those homes may include houses featured in Mt. Lebanon and the South Hills, a first-time homeowner using solar in Point Breeze, and a South Side house turned solar -- although like two others on the tour, the residents of this small classic Pittsburgh dwelling also use their personal grid to power an electric car.
Of course, there are more elaborate and involved solar uses featured on the tour as well. Those include stops at:
  • A solar installer’s own solar house in Regent Square, which eliminates 100 percent of his electricity bill
  • A Squirrel Hill green house that features other sustainability solutions and holds monthly Sustainability Salons
  • A North Side loft that is completely green, using reclaimed materials. "That's a real standout and represents the renaissance that Pittsburgh is going through," says Endres.
  • The EECO Center (Environment and Energy Community Outreach) in the East End that offers advice on greening homes and businesses
  • A Friendship Victorian restored on the outside and retrofitted with sustainable technologies on the inside
  • An Aliquippa home honey-maker gone solar
  • Frankferd Farms Foods Inc. in Saxonburg and the Ferderber Farm and Frankferd Farms Milling in Valencia, an organic farm featuring a solar-powered milling operation, and
  • A ground-mounted solar array used for a home in Rochester
Whether you're contemplating solar for the money or planet savings, says Endres, "an event like this helps people who made this investment talk to future solar owners in the area."
Do Good: Ready to go solar yourself? Find a guide at Three Rivers Solar Source.  
Writer: Marty Levine
Source: Evan Endres, PennFuture
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