The ASES Houston Solar Tour is the local movement for the ASES National Solar Tour sponsored by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES). Organized and run by volunteer members, Houston Renewable Energy Group (HREG) presents this event as the local chapter of ASES.
Annually, as part of the ASES National Solar Tour, various communities across America simultaneously hold their own local tour during the first Saturday in October, creating the world’s largest grassroots solar event. Last year close to 140,000 attendees visited some 5,000 buildings in 3,000 participating communities.
The Tour aims to educate the community about solar installations including photovoltaic, thermal, passive solar building design, and overall energy efficiency. The Tour gives people the opportunity to see solar equipment up close and understand the experience of having a system.
Ultimately the tour inspires people across the nation to make sustainable energy choices that help lower costs, support energy independence, protect against power outages, and reduce carbon emissions.
The first Tour was launched in 2004 with six sites including the “Bellaire Solar Home” which was Houston’s first solarized neighborhood home, and Spawglass headquarters, Houston’s first certified “green” building. About 70 people attended the Tour. This was a guided tour, starting at the Texas Southern University’s solar lab with vans carrying people from site to site. At this time, Houston only had a handful of solar hobbyists.
The Tour had its “first picnic” at the Gardner residence. Approximately 150 participated in the Tour.
The Tour increased to eight projects. Five of the projects featured active solar systems. This was the first year the Tour had a professionally designed and printed Tour Guide.
This was the first year to have an organized solar tour committee. Although it rained most of the day, well over 150 attendees participated in the 8 project Tour and picnic, which was hosted by Teri Mercantante.
In 2008 the City of Houston and HARC became solar tour partners by becoming involved with tour planning and presentation. The Tour picnic was reorganized to create a larger event, the Solar Social. It was held at Discovery Green enabling more participation from attendees, sponsors and education resources. Although the event was pushed back due to Hurricane Ike, approximately 1,000 people attended the tour, with about 500 attendees at the Solar Social. With over 20 projects, this tour demonstrated the increase in solar installations during 2007 and 2008.
The 2009 ASES Houston Solar Tour consisted of 20 projects, plus the Solar Social as the kick off event. Metro donated two buses for the day to give the option of a guided tour. In addition the ASES Houston Solar Tour developed it’s own designated website, along with a strong brand presence. Sponsors such as TXU, Direct Energy and Green Mountain demonstrated their commitment to solar energy. HARC teams up with the Solar Tour group for enhanced on-line information about the tour sites and solar energy in Houston. Through HARC, the Houston Solar Tour also supports the goals of the Solar Houston Initiaive.
Here are some Solar Tour Guides from previous years.