Tour features area’s use of Earth- friendly energy

Laura Hoesman and Laura Hoesman

In the mind of University senior Jessica Belcher, the phrase “Knowledge is Power,” embedded in the brains of the “Schoolhouse Rock” generation, has adopted a more specific wording, “Knowledge is Solar Power.”

Belcher, an environmental policy and analysis major, spent her summer organizing the Northwest Ohio Solar Tour as an internship project for Green Energy Ohio, a local environmental group.

The free, self-guided tour which will be held Saturday, will give people a chance to visit various public and residential buildings in northwest Ohio that use alternative energy sources for electrical power.

“I just want people to gain a respect for how people are able to use energy conservation practices and creative energy sources right here in northwest Ohio,” Belcher said. “I want people to see what alternative energy can do for them.”

Nationwide, other energy conservation groups affiliated with the American Solar Energy Society will hold their own “Solar Tours” on the same day.

“The National Solar Tour gives people the chance to meet directly with others who have incorporated energy efficiency and solar design features in their buildings to save energy,” said Brad Collins, ASES executive director.

“Visitors can experience the comfort of increased daylight in buildings, learn about the benefits of solar and other forms of renewable energy, watch electric meters run backwards and see the actual savings on utility bills in buildings in their community. But most importantly, they can learn from their neighbors what works in their town.”

The Northwest Ohio Tour will include buildings in Bowling Green, Perrysburg, Maumee, Toledo, Curtice and Monclova. Bowling Green’s wind turbines will also be included in the tour.

Other sites in Bowling Green include Crim and Kenwood Elementary schools and the BGSU Ice Arena, which use solar panels. The elementary schools are drive-by sites, and all other sites in Bowling Green will be open from 9 a.m. to noon. Guide books for the tour are available at each of these locations.

With the exception of three drive-by sites, all stops on the tour will have knowledgeable people on-site to answer questions and lead tour-goers around buildings. Guidebooks and sign-in sheets will be available at each tour stop.

Belcher said she learned a lot during her summer internship.

“I had no idea how many sites in northwest Ohio alone were using alternative energy or conservation techniques,” she said.

“I knew about the wind turbines. I knew about the solar panels going up at the [BGSU] Ice Arena. I had no idea there were just little homes throughout the area that were doing this, and even the Toledo Museum of Art was looking at alternative energy to help them,” Belcher said. “It amazes me how many sites there actually were, and I think it will actually amaze people in this area to see how many there are as well.”

As for her future, Belcher plans to continue working for GEO after graduation, holding a paid position. One career goal, she said, is to spread awareness of renewable energy resources to her home state.

“I’m originally from Michigan,” she said. “So I’d like to move some of the [energy] ideas into Michigan. We have a few groups up there that work on it, but I don’t think [alternative energy] is as prominent as it is here in Ohio, and I’d like to see it get stronger up my way. And I’d like to keep working on it in Bowling Green.”

For more information on the Northwest Ohio Solar Tour, e-mail Belcher at [email protected] or call 517-902-1177.