Touchy-feely energy

Solar Tours of local sites give hands-on experiences with sustainable energy

Carlo Luri, general manager of Bently Biofuels, stands outside the plant next to its solar energy system and barrels of recycled vegetable oil. Bently Biofuels is part of the Solar Tour.

Carlo Luri, general manager of Bently Biofuels, stands outside the plant next to its solar energy system and barrels of recycled vegetable oil. Bently Biofuels is part of the Solar Tour.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

The Solar Tour with Sunrise Sustainable Resources Group is Oct. 6 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kick-off is at CVIC Hall, 1602 Esmeralda Ave., Minden. $5 members, $10 nonmembers. After Sept. 30, $10- $15. For more information, call 224-1877 or visit

From insulation to energy generation to water conservation, environmentally friendly building materials are beginning to make the average home look like a Hummer, wasting energy when alternatives abound.

For 12 years, Sunrise Sustainable Resources Group has been conducting tours of homes and businesses to turn vague ideas of solar and renewable energy into something more tangible.

Philip Moore, a calm, earnest man with a bicyclist’s frame and a passion for the environment, is organizer of this year’s Solar Tour with Sunrise Sustainable. He joined the group in 2001 after spending two years living in Europe, an experience that opened his eyes to how wasteful the American lifestyle was—especially in terms of transportation and energy efficiency—and how much more sustainable it could be.

“The whole idea of these tours is to get the touch and feel of what it’s like to live in a renewable energy house,” says Moore.

The 12th annual tour kicks off at the CVIC Hall in Minden on Oct. 6 with an introduction by industry experts. Tour-goers are given a map to go to the sites that interest them. Count on each site taking about an hour. Tour-goers may want to select just a few sites, or make a day of it:

Lee and Anne Elson House: The Elsons lovely home was built with energy efficiency in mind, from their 3.5 kWh solar system to the thermal insulation throughout the house to their Energy Star appliances; timed, motorized window shades; and a nifty plenum and subterranean rock feature that regulates the temperature year-round. Builder Mike Jarrett will be available for questions, and the Elsons have provided a detailed slide show about their choices and lessons learned.

Job’s Peak Cottages: This gated community by Kit Carson Development and Heritage Nevada for the 55-and-older crowd is the first residential project in Nevada working toward full LEED certification for all of its 58 homes. Its residences boast energy-saving features on its windows, insulation, hot water heaters, solar tubes and appliances.

Bently Biofuels: See the process of converting recycled vegetable oil into biodiesel—a hot topic in the search for petroleum alternatives. General manager Carlo Luri takes participants on a tour of the plant, which smells like a fast-food restaurant and runs almost completely on solar energy and biofuel. Luri tells the history of the company and its plans to break ground on a biofuels retail station in 2008. There’s even a pump in back where diesel drivers can fill up for $3.50 a gallon.

Carson City private home: This home has a passive solar system that’s about 20 years old and still functioning, showing how renewable energy technology has changed over time.

Courthouse: This courthouse in Douglas County has been retrofitted with a ground source heat pump, which may interest public administrators and others curious about the technology. This site is awaiting confirmation.

Private home: The custom-built residence features solar shingles, a less expensive, though arguably less efficient form of solar energy. The owner built more from an economic than environmental perspective. Awaiting confirmation.