What is the Solar Tour Waco? Solar Tour Waco is one of 79 tours in the United States in 2019 incorporating some 855 individual solar open houses. This National Solar Tour is the largest grassroots renewable energy event in the country.

Why is a solar tour needed in Waco? A recent CBS poll found that 67% of Americans believe global warming is a climate emergency. Despite this growing recognition of climate danger, Project Sunroof found that Waco has only 66 solar installations out of 39,500 suitable roofs. The goal of Solar Tour Waco is to educate Wacoans about solar energy and inspire them to install solar panels on their homes.

How does a solar open house work? Individuals who have gone solar open their homes or businesses to engage their neighbors around the power of solar energy. Most solar owners welcome visitors to the outside of their homes since that’s where the solar panels perform. The owners explain the installation, finances, electricity production, monitoring, (minimal) maintenance and benefits of their systems. Visitors have an excellent opportunity to ask any questions they may have about this technology. Finally, handouts are available, providing additional detail.

How many locations are on the Waco Tour? We have five: Two residences, Urban REAP Mission Waco, Holtek Solar and Kittner & Pate Design Associates.

Aren’t five sites rather limited? For the first year, we are pleased with the tour size. Not to mention the fact we beat Austin, which has only three sites on its tour, and Sacramento, California, which has none.

What else do the solar open houses offer? Most of the Waco sites have other sustainability features on display, including electric cars, composting, rain collection systems and aquaponics. A unique opportunity is thus offered to view firsthand multiple sustainability solutions in one place. Further, Holtek Solar will demonstrate the monitoring of some 40 photovoltaic systems in its office.

But are there snacks? Of course, there is Texas hospitality! All locations except Kittner will serve light refreshments.

Why should homeowners install a photovoltaic system in 2019? First, this is the last year in which people who go solar are eligible for the full 30% federal tax credit for the cost of their solar or battery systems. In addition, ONCOR usually provides a generous solar rebate to its customers and a renewable energy property-tax deduction is available. Rooftop solar is an astute long-term investment, providing free electricity once the system cost is recovered. Finally, solar panels keep a portion of the roof cooler, appear sleek and contemporary, increase home resale value about 4% and may speed the sale of a home by 20%. But most important, just as we invest in our children’s college fund, rooftop solar is an investment to preserve a livable planet on which our children may actually utilize their educations.

Why should businesses also go solar? The reasons are similar to those for homeowners. In addition, local businesses can adopt the wisdom of 100 of the world’s most powerful corporations which have pledged to go 100% renewable, including Google, Facebook, Walmart and Goldman Sachs. In Waco, we call on Chip and Joanna Gaines to install solar throughout their Magnolia complex and set a powerful and brilliant example for the city. The Gaineses state that they wish their company to “stand the test of time.” The truth is — based on the world’s best scientific knowledge — their lifestyle companies will not be able to persist forever unless the world effectively limits warming to 2-degrees C. And this will require the efforts of everyone to transition to renewable energy.

And why must governments at all levels install solar? Since ensuring the safety and wellbeing of its citizens is a primary responsibility of governments, acting to mitigate the existential threat of climate change is mandatory. We congratulate the City of Waco on its initial steps to solarize its buildings and call on it to proceed with the speed given to extinguishing a burning building. And we call on all the surrounding city and county governments to do the same.

This Saturday/Sunday tour sounds fascinating. Exactly when and where does it happen? To find the addresses, times of operation and specific details of each solar open house, please visit www.friendsofpeace.org. We encourage everyone to visit the tour and consider the possibility of adopting this biosphere-saving technology.

Alan Northcutt is a Waco pathologist and director of a local climate change organization, the Waco Friends of Peace/Climate.

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