Renewable Energy Podcast

Welcome to your Solar Tour: A Renewable Energy Field Trip

This isn’t your typical episode of Clean Power Planet. This is our solar tour episode. October is the American Solar Energy Society’s National Solar Tour month and they help local chapters and groups all over the country host solar tours so people can see solar systems on homes and other buildings where they live. If you couldn’t make it on a tour it’s okay. You can join me on the Lexington, Kentucky Solar Tour through the magic of radio (umm… podcasts).

Welcome to your solar tour: A Podcast Field Trip
Welcome to your solar tour: A Podcast Field Trip

If you check out the audio clip you will hear conversations at each stop on the tour, or the ones I made it to anyway. The tour was self-guided so you could pick the homes that were closest. We started out at Bluegrass Community and Technical College where Kevin Jensen and Paul Turner gave us a tour of their Alternative Energy Lab and explained some of the things that their students learn in their Energy Technology program. It allows students that are training to be electricians to get a certificate in solar energy or wind energy.

The lab has large boards that look like rolling blackboards except they have solar system components mounted all over them. The back of each board has solar panels and bright lights to simulate sunlight. The front of the board has inverters, charge controllers, batteries and lights to represent a load. Students can hook up all of the components and learn how a system works before they get out onto a job site.

Kevin and Paul did a fantastic job of taking us through the highlights of grid-tied solar systems and also showed us how they installed a 5 kilowatt PV system on campus. They also gave us a practical demonstration of wind energy with a small turbine in the lab. Matt Partymiller and Bill Slater from Solar Energy Solutions gave us a preview of some of the systems on the tour, most of which they had installed. Matt has been very active over the years in reaching out to state legislators to try to make Kentucky more solar-friendly. He described some of the challenges in the state and also talked about some of the large systems that will soon be coming online in Kentucky. After the Q&A session, a few donuts and some grumbling about Kentucky’s solar energy regulations we headed outside to look at the PV system.

This is probably the only podcast with an advisory panel. The members of the panel include an attorney, a paralegal and three college professors. It’s made up of my neighbors and my wife. The panel’s primary responsibility is to give me feedback and listen to me talk about the podcast. The panel members are appointed and they cannot resign. Most of the advisory panel attended the first stop on the tour and I got a chance to talk to them as we looked at the school’s solar array.

Next was the self-guided home tour. Five homeowners across Lexington put their homes on the tour this year. Some of them hung out in their front yard talking to people on the tour so they could explain their solar systems and answer questions. Matt and Bill went to several of the homes to answer questions as well. Jamie Clark, who recently launched Synergy Home, a solar energy and energy efficiency company, was on hand at his house to show people the system that he installed and talk about how he reduced his energy needs during a complete remodel.

I went to three out of the five homes on the tour, including Jamie’s. Here is an excerpt from our conversation.

JC: I can take somebody and for about $3,000 worth of insulation probably knock five panels off the load and make it a lot more efficient. It’s about diet and exercise.

DB: And then they can add those panels back on and get an electric car.

JC: You know that’s exactly right. The goal is to make your house as efficient as possible with solar really being the last step. Because we can shave a lot of low hanging fruit. I mean I figured up on this house. I spent about $900 on LED light bulbs as opposed to incandescents but that shaved probably $5,000 in solar panels off the load in order to get me down to zero so it’s a much better investment. And I already had to get light bulbs and LED light bulbs are going to last 25 years so they’re not going to need replacing as often and an LED light bulb only puts off about 95 degree temperature where incandescents are 250 so I’m lowering my internal heat gain so I’m using less air conditioning.

DB: That’s great.

JC: So everything works together. You know my company motto is “Is your house in sync?” Everything needs to be in sync if you’re going to be as optimum as you possibly can.

DB: So where can people find out more about your company?

JC: or look us up on Facebook as well.

DB: Well it was great talking to you Jamie. I hope you get a lot more people on the tour.

JC: Yep I see two pulling up right now.

Next I headed over to Barbara Szubinska’s house. You can hear our conversation in the podcast.

At this point the open house part of the tour was over so I headed for the last stop which was Habitat for Humanity’s Restore. The ReStore is kind of like a thrift store where people donate used or leftover building materials, appliances, and furniture. They even have leftover paint. Sandy Levy, the landlord recently had Solar Energy Solutions install a large solar array and Matt Partymiller was going to explain it to people on the tour. I ran into Bill Slater, who works with Matt. We stood outside and talked thinking that we were waiting for Matt. In fact he was already inside. You can listen to my conversation with Bill in the podcast.

I went inside to look for Matt. He was gone but Sarah, one of the managers at the ReStore showed me the system and explained what the ReStore is all about. My conversation with Sarah is also in the podcast.

Thanks for joining us. If you want to see some photos from the tour you can check out our blog or Facebook page.

Special thanks to Ben Worth, Kevin Jensen and Paul Turner from Bluegrass Technical and Community College for making the tour so awesome by showing us their Alternative Energy Lab and explaining the school’s Energy Efficiency program.

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