From the community: Tour solar-powered homes


For The Beachcomber

As summer turns to fall and the days shorten precipitously, we may all need a reminder of the sun’s power to light up our lives.

How timely that the 2008 Vashon Solar Tour will come our way from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, to provide a sure-fire antidote to those rain-spotted blues.

Sponsored by Artisan Electric and Sustainable Vashon, this annual event will feature seven locations, including four first-timers, which will demonstrate a wide range of solar thermal and/or photovoltaic technologies for you to view as potential models for your own homes.

In years past there haven’t been enough homes on Vashon to qualify for an all-solar tour, so we are particularly pleased with this year’s offerings.

For those of you who may not know the lingo, like me before we decided to go-solar at our house, photovoltaic or “PV” panels refer to those shiny silver metal sheets you see posted on roadway signs, on rooftops and in cow pastures that draw energy from the sun, feed it into the grid and thereby contribute some measure of renewable energy to all our lives.

Contrary to popular mythology, our part of the world is an excellent location for solar power generation.

As one of the newly converted, I can’t tell you how thrilling it is to watch the amount of energy charge we draw — even on cloudy days.

The tour will kick off at 13129 S.W. 248th St. —

the home of Jennifer and Jason Williams, owners of Artisan Electric, a family-operated electrical business committed to energy conservation.

Not only can you pick up detailed maps there for your self-guided tour, but you can also participate in several question-and-answer forums, which will be repeated throughout the day, at 10:30 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.

Panelists will include Jason Williams, licensed electrician and local solar photovoltaic installer, Dorsey Davis, licensed plumbing contractor and solar thermal installer with Prime Plumbing, and Jake Wade, Puget Sound Energy’s Green Power Program implementer.

These experts will present the latest technological information, describe the process of net metering and provide up-to-date information on federal and state financial incentives for going solar. In addition to their formal presentations, they will be available all day to answer your questions.

Another highlight of the 2008 tour will be the unveiling of Sustainable Vashon’s newest project — the Solar Initiative — by Sustainable Vashon volunteers who will be onhand at the Williams’ house.

Here’s a tidbit about the Solar Initiative to spark your interest: By creating part-

nerships between Sustain-able Vashon and key Island organizations to reduce the Island’s carbon footprint, this new Sustainable Vashon endeavor intends to set up small-scale demonstration solar installations and use them to educate and motivate the community around renewable energy.

These installations will do more than generate electricity.

They will provide an opportunity to explore local and global energy issues in an interactive way, with the goal of sparking a wave of interest in renewables and setting the stage for larger community-based solar projects.

Already, Vashon House-Hold and the Vashon-Maury Island Land Trust have joined the initiative. The sun is definitely shining on Vashon.

Now, back to the tour: This year’s eight sites will showcase a variety of creative energy-savers for the sustainably minded home-


As you travel the Island with your self-guided map, you might think of it as a treasure hunt and keep an eye out for the solar food dryer, solar-powered electric car, passive-solar designed home, rainwater catchments and battery-operated solar options for the garden.

Joe Yarkin, local solar expert and solar thermal installer, will be hanging out at site No. 2 to answer questions about solar hot water. As a final bonus, goats will make an appearance at one site to demonstrate brush clearing.

Wherever you go, take your time and enjoy the day, rain or shine. Bring friends and family and experience the thrill of watching those solar meters spin backwards as panels create renewable energy from rays of the sun.

Learn how your neighbors are trimming their energy bills, generating their own electricity and brightening the world.

— Janie Starr is a member of Sustainable Vashon, a devotee of locally grown food and the proud owner of a very sexy 8.4 grid-tied solar system.

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