By Lucas Bechtol, CG News
Fourteen businesses and residential homes in Athens County will open their doors to visitors this weekend for the eighth annual Ohio Solar Tour, a showcase of sites that use renewable energy sources.
Area residents will be able to tour sites such as the Ohio University composter, the Village Bakery on East State Street and the Athens Community Center. No reservations are required and all tours are free.
Green Energy Ohio, a non-profit that promotes alternative energy sources, organized the tour. The event has grown throughout the years and now includes a record number of sites in the Athens area, said Michelle Greenfield, CEO of Third Sun Solar, a renewable energy company in Athens.
Representatives of Third Sun Solar will guide visitors on tours of businesses and homes that have started using solar energy.
Visitors can choose from a walking tour and driving tour. Both will begin at 1 p.m. Saturday. The vehicle tour will meet at the Athens Community Center, located at 701 East State St. in Athens, and the walking tour will meet at the Village Bakery, which is located at 268 East State St.
The Village Bakery recently installed 10.24-kilowatt solar panels that gather enough energy to cover 13 percent of its overall power expenditure, said co-owner Bob O’Neil.
“That’s a strong number,” O’Neil said. “This system would easily power many homes.”
O’Neil said that every recipient of state funds for solar panels must participate in the solar tour. The Village Bakery’s owners are happy to be a part of the event.
“We’re proud of our solar panels,” O’Neil said. “We want to shout it out.”
OU has taken part in the tour for six years, OU Sustainability Coordinator Sonia Marcus said. Its participation started with the Ohio Ecohouse, an university-owned house in Athens that uses many alternative energy sources. The university’s composter was featured last year because it was “new and exciting,” Marcus said.
The composter is the biggest of any college in the country and uses a 10-kilowatt solar array capable of producing 50 percent of the facility’s needed energy.
“I hope [visitors] will be exposed to new technology and a new way of thinking about waste,” Marcus said.
The Solar Tour will give the area a chance to show what can be done with renewable energy, said Athens City Councilman Elahu Gosney, D-at large.
“One of the areas where we are the head of the pack is green energy,” he said, citing Athens-based businesses such as Third Sun Solar and Dovetail Solar and Wind as examples of the city’s alternative energy assets.
Developing renewable energy will help create jobs, Gosney added.