Illinois Solar Tour comes to Evanston home

Olga Gonzalez Latapi, Reporter

The Illinois Solar Tour hosted an open house on Saturday as part of the organization’s efforts to promote the use of alternative energy.

The state tour, currently in its sixth year, is part of the larger National Solar Tour, which hosts events across the country at homes that use renewable energy sources. The tour showcased 70 Illinois homes and businesses Saturday.

Evanston resident Jeff Balch said he responded to a request from the Illinois Solar Energy Association for homes using alternative energy resources to participate in the open house. Balch said he hopes his south Evanston home, which uses solar panels to generate electricity, will set an example for the community.

“This is our limited role: helping get the word out to the Evanston residents,” he said.

Peter Gorr, a member of the Illinois Solar Tour Committee, said the statewide event is the largest in the nation and promotes use of solar, wind and geothermal energy sources.

Although Gorr works to localize energy issues in local communities, he considers the use of alternative resources to be an issue of national relevance. Each year, thousands of people attend tours, looking for more information about the process of installing solar panels or other energy sources.

“It’s really a very beneficial thing not only for people individually, but for society in general,” Gorr said. “It’s good for the country.”

Both Balch and Gorr said one of the main reasons many homeowners do not use alternative energy is a lack of information on how to acquire the necessary equipment. Balch said he has noticed a high level of interest in solar energy from people visiting his home. He and his daughter said they were glad to open their house to people who have questions.

“We feel really lucky to live in this house and we want other people to consider installing solar as well,” he said.

Gorr said that once people get more information about alternative energy, they will be more likely to look beyond the negative perceptions, including costs and appearance of homes.

“I don’t have an electric bill I have to worry about — and I never will,” he said.