Record 3,200 communities hosting solar tours this weekend

American Solar Energy Society’s 16th annual solar home tour gearing upTowns and counties from Boulder, Colo. to Muncie, Ind. and Franklin County, Pennsylvania to states like Ohio and Alaska will host more than 160,000 visitors in open house tours of the greenest buildings, according to the society.

Most of the tours take place on Saturday. Some are full weekend affairs.

Some new areas have come online with plenty of solid new and lasting solar installations to show off while other more established and historic programs have expanded. There are more than 5,500 buildings featured on this year’s tour, according to the Society.

Many communities, while they retain their ties with their solar roots, have branched out to include other renewable energy sources.

“Interest in the solar industry is cooking,” National Solar Tour manager Richard Burns said in a statement. “And consumers across the nation are eager to sample its wares, which bring enticing tax credits, cash rebates, improved property values and cleaner communities to home and business owners across America.”

Among the newest programs is Franklin County, Pennsylvania.

“It’s definitely the first one in Franklin County,” said organizer Len Lindenmeyer. “And, as far as I know, it’s the first one in south central Pennsylvania.”

He said the area just started its regional Renewable Energy Association three months ago. While renewable energy is just getting its legs in Franklin County, they’re strong legs.

The area’s first tour will feature nine destinations. Two of them are farms, Lindenmeyer said. One, an organic farm, has a 30-megawatt solar installation and the other, a dairy, has a 50-megawatt array.

Lindenmeyer said people in his area of Pennsylvania were slow to pick up on solar. No one seemed to know about its potential or care. But once people started to catch on, the trend spread like a wildfire.

Lindenmeyer started teaching a clean energy seminar at Warren Wilson College four years ago. And then he hosted community workshops about going solar last year.

“We live in a community of just 400 or 500 homeowners,” Lindenmeyer said. “And 15 people in town installed solar as a result of those workshops.”

South central Pennsylvania is not a heavily populated area. There are just over 30,000 residents in Franklin County, Lindenmeyer said.

Events like this weekend’s tour are a perfect way to get the word out and provide a little education and information that can go a long way, Lindenmeyer said. It’s like having nine of the workshops he hosted that helped people take the plunge. He hopes the tour is an inspiration to the people who attend. He’s expecting a good turnout of about 100.

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Pictured: The Sanderson home in Wadsworth, Ohio, which is on the tour for this weekend.