Solar home tour spotlights renewable energy

10/05/09 Carson Frame
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On Saturday, USF’s Clean Energy Research Center brought the ASES National Solar Tour to Tampa. The tour is an annual event aimed at educating the public about solar technologies and energy innovation. Carson Frame reports.

The American Solar Energy Society Solar Tour is the largest grassroots solar event in the U.S. The program kicked off at USF’s Research Park with energy authorities explaining the details of solar photovoltaic technology. Dr. Lee Stefanakos, director of the Clean Energy Research Center, talked about the different kinds of systems available for residential use.

Stefanakos said that Florida actually doesn’t receive as much sunshine as people think. Factors such as humidity limit the ability of solar panels to absorb the sun’s energy.

David Schroeder of Schroeder Homes installs solar energy panels for both commercial and residential properties. He explained that homeowners should consider several factors before installing a solar array on their roof. Schroeder said that in order to gauge the productivity of a solar photovoltaic system in a given location, homeowners should consult a sun hour map. Sun hour maps take into account atmospheric data and show the average levels of sun exposure in certain areas.

JoAnne Fiebe of Harvest Solar listed several benefits of going solar. Fiebe also presented a cost-benefit analysis of installing a solar photovoltaic system on a typical home. Her report was based on a 5 kilowatt power system used in conjunction with a solar hot water heater. This combination was found to generate the greatest returns for the consumer.

Fiebe clarified that federal and state incentives make solar systems a good investment. She outlined the fiscal benefits available to consumers. With the help of these incentives, Fiebe says, solar energy systems begin to pay for themselves after six years.

WMNF also spoke with Kathleen Conossack, a homeowner from Clearwater. Kathleen is considering installing a solar water heater in her house in order to lower her energy bills, which she says are through the roof.

This year, the American Solar Energy Society selected several local, energy-efficient homes to be included on the National Solar Tour. A tour brochure was made available to the public so that they could view each property. Edward Rosen, featured homeowner of the 2009 tour, took a moment to explain the solar technologies at work on his property.

Rosen says that his solar PV system should pay for itself within seven to ten years. The system also provides a safeguard against energy price increases.

Nationwide, the Solar Tour involved nearly 140,000 attendees who visited more than 5,000 solar homes, businesses, and schools in communities throughout the U.S.

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