This coming weekend, Houston residents will have an opportunity to tour solar-powered homes and businesses in their community. The event is part of the American Solar Energy Society’s national solar tour.
“Typically communities do the tour the first Saturday in October,” said Seth Masia, Executive Director of the American Solar Energy Society. “But, if they have homecoming games or other local concerns, they’ll bump it to another time.”
The tour in Texas this weekend is among several dozen outlying solar tours that have yet to occur.
The tours are typically scheduled in the fall because kids are back in school and people are home. Masisa was quick to point out that communities make their own schedules, however.
“Alaska has theirs in the middle of the summer – I guess for obvious reasons,” he added.
The solar tours give people a chance to see homes and businesses with operating distributed solar arrays and ask questions both to homeowners and the installers who built the solar arrays. Nationally, Masia estimates there about 5,000 solar tours in communities throughout the country.
It’s not easy to get accurate attendance information, he noted. All of the events are coordinated by local volunteers, installers and homeowners. ASES only provides support for promotions with yard signs, event listings on its website and occasionally some other advertising or promotional assistance. The Society estimates, based on volunteer counts, that roughly 160,000 people attend the solar tours each year.
“Most people go through the tours in couples or as a family,” he stated. “So, we figure that’s about 80,000 households.”
The events taking place this fall mark 18 years of tours. ASES has been managing them since 1995.
It's unknown whether attendance at the tours has grown, despite an increase in interest solar energy. Since getting accurate data is difficult, there’s no way to know if the event has become increasingly more popular, although Masisa fears there’s a chance it might not have grown as dramatically as some might expect.
“The original utility of the tour was to show people something that was pretty rare,” he concluded. “But rooftop solar isn’t all that rare anymore. There are certainly more potential home sites available for tour, but people don’t necessarily need to go on a tour like this to get more information about solar.”