It’s the annual Solar Tour! This year it’s Saturday, October 1, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and there are 31 installations to check out, including the Carleton wind turbine… turbine? …well, it’s out in the sun, right? And the Green Institute’s Solar Roof!


The Solar Tour is sponsored by the Minnesota Renewable Energy Society (MRES), Aveda Corporation, which utilizes renewables and conservation in its production facilities; Xcel Energy, and Great River Energy. Here’s the MAP for the Solar Tour.

If you just can’t wait another week, there’s a Community Solar Project Planning Workshop at the Dodge Nature Center, all day next Saturday, September 24th, starting at 8:30 a.m.

Solar’s a happenin’ thang, from massive installations out in the desert

Solar in desert.jpg

and on the roof of the community washeteria up in Arctic Village, Alaska, near ANWR

Arctic Village.jpg

and if it works there, it works anywhere, well, nearly anywhere, like in Austin, Minnesota, where the paper is crowing about that community’s steps:

Friday, August 05, 2005


Citizens can lead the way toward change

Here’s the story about that project in Austin:

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tapping the sun’s power

By Lee Bonorden/Austin Daily Herald

Good Earth Natural Foods is basking in the sun.

Owner Caron Jagodzinski is a believer in renewable energy, judging by her solar panels. They rest on the south side of the building, where everyone can see them and be reminded of the sun’s importance as a renewable energy source.

Hunter Electric, Inc. is doing the work, and Austin Utilities is partnering.

“I think it’s good for everyone,” said Kelly Lady, energy services consultant. “We sell power. She wants to produce her own. In this case, Good Earth Natural Foods will use all of the energy it produces. It will be minimal, but it’s a step in the right direction to find alternative energy sources and reduce our dependence upon fossil fuels.”

Work began Monday at Good Earth Natural Foods, located at 120 Third Ave. NW, Austin. Mark Hunter had the right man for the job: Tom Yates, who lives in a solar home outside of Austin.

Hunter Electric Inc.’s owner, Hunter, was excited about being involved in “energy history.”

“This is the first solar panel going up on Austin Utilities lines,” he said. “Each panel puts out about 110 watts. There are eight panels. There will be 40 volts per panel with no load on it. It will put out 320 volts of DC power.”

That’s a minimal amount of electricity, but Hunter said it’s enough to illuminate eight 100-watt light bulbs an hour.

Hunter said the solar project should be completed this week.

Yates, the “Mr. Solar Energy” of Austin, said the Good Earth Natural Foods system’s 880 watts is a little less than 1 kilowatt. “This is going to run lights and cash register. That kind of equipment,” Yates said.

Because of the heavy demands for electricity by the freezer/refrigeration equipment in Good Earth Natural Foods, the panels will generate less than 10 percent of the total energy needs of the business.

“I think she’s doing it more for the next generation,” Yates said.

“This system would cover a third of my use for my house,” Jagodzinski said.

The business owner is serious about trying to reduce her own dependence upon the public utility’s electricity. “I have already put compact fluorescents in and reduced my electrical use by three or four percent,” she said.

At home she uses a washing machine that will pay for itself in five years with just the water she saves.

“This is a dream come true for me,” Jagodzinski said of choosing the solar system for her business.

Choosing the south side of her building was the “perfect location” for the solar panels, according to Yates.

Solar technologies use the sun’s energy and light to provide heat, light, hot water, electricity and even cooling, for homes, businesses and industry.

“They make a huge variety of solar energy devices,” Hunter said. “Shingles that go on roofs, as well as panels.”

“Drive around and look at all the highway construction signs,” Hunter said. “They have panels to power batteries to illuminate the signs.”

Austin Utilities has a policy to guide the implementation of projects such as the Good Earth Natural Foods solar panels.

According to the utility spokesperson, Lady, people in Austin who want to produce their own electricity must contact Austin Utilities first for a preplan and follow-up inspections.

In Jagodzinski’s case, the solar energy she will produce will be tied directly to the Austin Utilities power line through an inverter converting the energy from DC to AC.

According to Yates, adapting to renewable energy sources is being done more aggressively by businesses.

According to the Austin Utilities’ spokesperson, it will cost between 18 and 25 cents per kilowatt hour to produce electricity with the eight solar panels, while the utility’s cost is 8 cents per kilowatt hour.

Austin Utilities plans to launch a campaign to encourage solar energy usage in October.

People such as Yates and now Jagodzinski are prepared to endure that while making a statement.

“Look at the heat,” Jagodzinski said Monday afternoon, during the sidewalk interview on another hot, humid day. “Right now, as we’re standing here, that’s going to work up there.”

By mid-afternoon Tuesday, the panels had generated their first units of electricity. A meter installed in the front window of the business will record the energy generated.

For information about renewable energy projects with Austin Utilities, call Lady at 433-8886.


This year’s Solar Tour will feature Austin’s Good Earth Natural Foods new solar system, and also the home system of Tom Yates, the guy who built the one at Good Earth — and ask him how to make your own diesel fuel while you’re there. Look for numbers 30 and 31 on the Solar Tour!

Tom's Solar System 2.JPG

The Solar Tour has sites in Minneapolis, such as Christine Ziebold’s #18, and in St. Paul, of course, and also Sun’s Warmth Rich Huelskamp’s house near Red Wing, the Brom residence in Winona, and even homes in Mora and Mendota Heights and Fridley! Here’s the MAP for the Solar Tour. That’s Saturday, October 1, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) also has a solar tour that pretty much covers the state of Wisconsin. Details here. There are tours, but you have to sign up for them, so check it out ASAP! MREA offers Certification classes — their page is under construction, so call 715-592-6595 for information or email.

How come Bob & Suzannah’s house isn’t on the tour? Ray, you’re slipping!

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