Energy adviser: See what solar can do in county

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When Dennis and Janice Harvey walk around their new Washougal home, sunlight flows in from almost every angle. Their home’s “sustainable” design incorporates passive solar heat, a solar water heater system, and other energy-efficient features throughout.

“We built this house around the sun,” Dennis Harvey says with enthusiasm. “Right now my electric utility bill is averaging $50 a month because of the design of this house. The sun is out there almost every day doing its job.”

The Harveys’ home received a LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — platinum designation from the U.S. Green Building Council. Platinum is the highest possible rating.

Those attending Clark Public Utilities’ 2011 Solar Tour starting Saturday will have a chance to view the Harvey house with all its features. The tour, which includes nine sites, is intended to help people find out more about the financial and environmental rewards of capturing energy from the sun and investing in other energy-efficient technology.

Part of the National Solar Tour, the local event kicks off with a 30-minute information session at the Clark Public Utilities Community Room, 1200 Fort Vancouver Way, Vancouver at 10 a.m. Saturday. There is no admission fee but attendees will be asked to purchase $5 maps of the nine sites on the tour. Participants visit locations individually; transportation is not provided.

Attendees are asked to visit the Washington State School for the Blind before noon. Homes are available to tour until 4 p.m. The Harveys are planning two short presentations at their house at 11:15 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Area manufacturer

Tour organizer John Zagunis of Camas, who represents Solar Washington Southwest, is expecting as many as 200 people to participate in the tour.

“It will be exciting this year to tell people about a new Washington-based solar module manufacturer, our second in-state supplier,” he said. “Buying solar equipment from a Washington company provides additional financial incentives for homeowners interested in collecting solar energy for heating water and other energy use.”

Zagunis said the tour is meant to show people how their neighbors are using sustainable technologies to reduce their utility bills.

Tourgoers will learn about investment incentives that include:

• A $500 rebate from Clark Public Utilities for the installation of a solar water heater.

• A 30 percent federal tax credit for homeowners and businesses, available until 2016.

• State tax credits for installation of photovoltaic modules and electric inverters. The combination adds up to 54 cents per kilowatt hour of capacity.

On the tour

For Vancouver homeowners David and Cherri Coonrod, the tour is about helping the environment and investing in the future. The Coonrods have installed a solar system on their roof to collect and store electricity.

“Right now our annual power bill is running about $465, total,” Coonrod said. “My view of the investment in the solar equipment was either pay now or pay later (as energy costs go up.)”

The Coonrods will hand out free books on alternative energy and green energy design and equipment.

Dave and Janice Harvey are opening their house for the tour because “we like to promote sustainable design and educate people about the concept,” Dave Harvey said. “Lack of education is the biggest reason people don’t take advantage of the design and the technology.”

The National Solar Tour is the largest solar energy event in the world. More than 160,000 people are expected to visit approximately 5,500 buildings in 3,200 communities. The event is coordinated nationally by the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society.

Energy Adviser is written by Clark Public Utilities. Send questions to energyadviser@clarkpud.com or Energy Adviser, c/o Clark Public Utilities, P.O. Box 8900, Vancouver, WA 98668.