catching rays

While Pittsburgh’s past could be called a dark shade of smoky, steel mills have long been banished and the city–now home to 39 LEED-certified or “green” buildings–has done a complete 180°. It’s no surprise that sustainable energy is catching on around the city, too. The fourth annual Pittsburgh Solar Tour will take place on Saturday, October 18 and this year, tour-goers will visit a house in Mt. Lebanon along with 17 other locations in the Pittsburgh area. Residents Jan Loney and Larkin Werner installed solar panels on their 227 Academy Avenue home last August.

“It worked really well for us. I love it.” says Loney of her 14 solar-panel system. They essentially have no electric bill and often have energy credit, which means Duquesne Light buys back the energy they generate but don’t use, usually $30 or $40 per quarter. (They aren’t striking it rich though, when you factor in a monthly customer charge from Duquesne Light, Loney and Werner break even again.) Loney is looking forward to the Pittsburgh Solar Tour and meeting other people interested in sustainable energy.

image001 580pxThe tour is self-guided and free. After participants register online, they can visit properties at their leisure (and in any order they choose) between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. while homeowners are on hand, ready to chat and showcase their solar energy systems. In response to increased interest in solar energy systems, Mt. Lebanon passed an ordinance in June 2013 outlining the regulations for anyone wanting to install a solar voltaic system (solar panels) on their property; you’ll need a permit and the system needs to comply with building and fire codes. (To read the full ordinance, click here.)

image002 580pxTours are sponsored by PennFuture and the Solar Unified Network of Western PA. If you’re interested in going on the tour yourself, you can register and download the guidebook on PennFuture’s website. Jan Loney also invites anyone with questions about living with solar panel energy to stop by her home, even outside tour hours.