By Julie Thibodeaux
This weekend, check out the latest in solar panel systems, high-volume cisterns and top-of-the-line wind turbines and chat with the homeowners who installed them when the North Texas Renewable Energy Group hosts its annual DFW Solar Home Tour on Oct. 6.
The North Texas Renewable Energy Group (NTREG) is a local chapter of the Texas Solar Energy Society, an affiliate of the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). The DFW event is part of the National Solar Tour coordinated by ASES, which is expected to draw more than 160,000 visitors in more than 3,000 communities across the U.S. during October. For this year’s solar energy blitz, a dozen North Texas homeowners are opening their doors to show off their home’s energy efficient features, answer questions and brag about their low electric bills.
In addition, event-goers can tour a solar panel manufacturing facility in Farmers Branch on Saturday.
According to Mellen West, co-organizer of the DFW Solar Home Tour, while this is the 17th year for the national event, this is only the third year for the Metroplex to participate. He said NTREG is still new at playing host but eventually wants to compete with other Texas cities like San Antonio, which offers a guided bus tour and T-shirts. [http://www.solartoursa.com/]
In North Texas, the self-guided outing spans the region, showcasing suburban homes from Weatherford to Garland. Event-goers can preview the locations online to see addresses, photos and descriptions of the homes. West said the NTREG tour showcases not only solar energy solutions but homes with a variety of energy conserving features. “All of the houses don’t have solar power,” he said. “But they will showcase intelligent design, conservation or some form of renewable energy.”
The Renner home in Weatherford is an outstanding stop with its 100-foot turbine and 7,500- gallon rain water reservoir. “The homeowner is the ultimate do-it-yourselfer,” said West. “Solar PV, solar hot water -- you name it, this is where you can see an example.”
West said one of the most popular homes on the tour is the Westbrook house in Fairview. It features passive solar design, a metal roof, wind turbine and low-water landscaping.
Meanwhile, the Neukranz home in Plano, with its real time energy performance monitoring system and geothermal heat pumps, is another must-see destination, he said. “This is the best example of what you can do with a 3,000-square-foot 1990s vernacular house to make it energy efficient,” said West. “He has $60 electric bills.”
The DFW Solar Home Tour is free and open to the public. The tour hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. However, check the website to confirm visiting hours for individual sites.
On the Web: • For more information about the DFW Solar Home Tour, see http://www.dfwsolarhometour.org. The information for the 2012 tour should be online by Oct. 3. • For more information on the National Solar Tour, visit http://ases.org/solar-tour/. • The North Texas Renewable Energy Group meets monthly on the second Saturday at REI in Dallas and features guest speakers. For more information on the group, visit http://www.txses.org/NTREG/.
Sign up for the weekly Green Source DFW Newsletter to stay up to date on everything green in North Texas, the latest news and events.
Julie Thibodeaux, covers environmental issues, green topics and sustainable living for Green Source DFW. Previously, she worked as an editor and writer at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Contact her at Julie@greensourcedfw.org.