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Renewable energy how-tos

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The solar array bedecking Paul Sampson’s Yellow Springs home generates up to 70 percent of the energy for his residence and the bed and breakfast he and his wife operate next door.

“And it doesn’t even have to be a bright, sunny day to generate electricity,” he said recently.

Sampson’s home is one of several featured in an upcoming tour of village houses outfitted with renewable energy technology, part of the fourth month of programming organized by the Yellow Springs Resilience Network and Community Solutions, along with other local collaborators, and funded by the Yellow Springs Community Foundation.

This month’s theme is renewable energy; speakers and events will explore different ways in which renewable energy sources can be implemented in the community and the home.

Events will include a film screening; a panel discussion about solar and alternative energy in Yellow Springs and elsewhere in Ohio; and the tour of village homes.

Renewable Energy Month will kick off with a film called “The Fourth Revolution.” The film will be shown at the Little Art Theatre on Sunday, April 17, at 1 p.m., and outlines, as its subtitle explains, “the case for the global transition to renewable energy” by showing a number of renewable energy projects in action around the world. The film will be followed by a panel discussion facilitated by Bob Brecha, a professor at University of Dayton and research director for the Hanley Sustainability Institute, whose frequent visits to German installations have put him in touch with renewable energy sourcing writ large.

The second event of the month will be a panel discussion about solar and alternative energy in Ohio. On Thursday, April 28, from 7–8:30 p.m. in the Antioch Arts and Science Building, Village Manager Patti Bates will speak about Yellow Springs’ energy investment portfolio; Brecha will weigh in on the state of renewables nationally and statewide; and resident Dan Rudolf will speak from personal experience about integrating renewable energy sources in the home, such as replacing his furnace with a groundwater heat pump, and about Tesla cars, vehicles that run solely on electricity.

Bates said the village made the conscious decision to reduce its carbon footprint “years ago.” To that end, she said, the village draws most of its energy from hydroelectric, wind and landfill gas sources, and has invested in six hydroelectric projects. Energy from the village’s solar array project is projected to replace the energy from natural gas, an energy source the village fully divested itself from earlier this month, she said.

The final event of the month will be the tour of local homes. Visitors will be able to see homes with roof- and ground-mounted solar arrays, and the home of resident Fred Stockwell, who generates energy at home via windmill. This event will take place on Saturday, April 30, from 1:30–3:30 p.m. Interested parties are asked to gather at 340 Yellow Springs–Fairfield Rd. to begin the tour.

The home tour portion has been one of the most popular aspects of past Community Solutions conferences, said Lance Hetzler, office manager for the organization. People like to see practical solutions put into play, he said. It’s a tangible way to address the depletion of finite energy reserves.

Hetzler said the abundance of solar power in Yellow Springs suggests the community is on the forefront of the growing national interest in renewable energy. Sampson and Dan Dixon, whose homes are part of the tour, have extensive solar panel arrays that provide their energy.

For the money-minded consumer, transitioning to renewable energy makes financial sense, said Hetzler. According to Sampson’s records, this amounts to approximately $1,176 in energy savings each year. Additionally, he said, the technology shouldn’t require much upkeep and will be easy to pass from one homeowner to the next. Although the net output will diminish over time and there is some cost for their installation, solar panels are projected to last up to 40 years, he said.

Moreover, rising energy costs makes producing one’s own energy a sensible financial decision, said Hetzler. In fact, Sampson’s system is grid-tied, meaning that the energy his house produces but does not use is put back into the energy system. He gets credits for the energy he creates, which is deducted from the amount he pays the electric company, he said. Additionally, there are often tax credits and grants that accompany the installation of renewable energy technology.

Eric Johnson, a member of the Yellow Springs Energy Council and a video producer with Community Solutions who helped organize the events, said the solar panels he has in his home will pay for themselves in 11 years and he’ll be able to produce his own free electricity from that point on.

“Though that’s not why I installed them,” he clarified. “I don’t know anyone who isn’t doing this for the environment.”

The series will conclude next month with presentations centered on the theme of transportation.

All of the events are free. See the Facebook pages of Community Solutions and YS Resilience Network for details.


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