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Published: Sunday, 10/5/2008

Visitors soak up bright ideas from Ohio Solar Tour exhibits

John Witte, left, explains the capabilities of the solar panel array at the University of Toledo's Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization. John Witte, left, explains the capabilities of the solar panel array at the University of Toledo's Wright Center for Photovoltaic Innovation and Commercialization.
JETTA FRASER / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

For an hour yesterday afternoon, the hottest installation at the Toledo Museum of Art wasn't inside any gallery space or period room - it was up on the building's roof.

And like any powerful museum object, this installation of 1,450 roof-mounted solar panels had the ability to amaze and inspire onlookers.

Some said it left them dreaming of a brighter - and greener - future.

"The installation is just awesome," said Joe Peschel, one of about 45 people who toured the museum's solar array yesterday during the Toledo-area leg of the Ohio Solar Tour. "I'm very impressed that the Toledo Museum of Art would put that much emphasis on getting into green power."

Now in its sixth year, the Ohio tour showcases solar, wind, and other forms of renewable energy devices installed at homes, businesses, and institutions.

The tour attracted several budding entrepreneurs such as Laralee Roberts of Grand Rapids, Ohio, who hopes to be on the forefront of the installation business as alternative energy devices like solar panels become more mainstream.

"Like anything else, if you get into it at the right time you're going to do well," Ms. Roberts said.

The northwest Ohio leg was split into tours centered on the Toledo, Bowling Green, and the Oregon areas to accommodate the growing number of alternative energy sites.

Altogether there were visits to 23 sites, including a 3-acre solar field at the Ohio Air National Guard's 180th Fighter Wing, based at Toledo Express Airport, that, when completed, will be the largest solar array in Ohio.

While the museum's roof is normally off-limits to the public, it was opened for about an hour to show off the building's new solar panels.

The first phase of the installation, completed this spring, generates 101 kilowatts of peak power on a sunny day, or almost 20 percent of the building's electrical demand, according to the museum.

The tour bus visited the Toledo Zoo to check out the new wind turbine and solar arrays, which power the zoo's three parking lot ticket booths.

The turbine is elevated 63 feet, and its three-blade rotor begins whipping around once the wind speed reaches 8 1/2 mph, said Dave Ruhl, the zoo's assistant director of facilities construction.

Any electricity produced when the ticket booths are not operating is fed into the zoo's internal power grid.

The group also stopped by the University of Toledo to check out its Clean and Alternative Energy Incubator and its twin rows of solar panels along Dorr Street.

Visitors learned how the incubator is home to the Wright Center for Photovoltaics Innovation and Commercialization, which coordinates efforts of university researchers and those from companies and organizations to improve solar panel manufacturing.

Among those eyeing UT's solar arrays were C. George Jorrey, 50, and his nephew, Mike Homsher, 21.

Mr. Jorrey said they are taking a class on solar panel installation at Owens Community College, and plan to start adding those services to their home maintenance and repair business in Bowling Green.

The Owens class began in 2002 and is coordinated by Mr. Peschel. He is a member of Green Energy Ohio.

"There is going to be a big market for installers, and we want to be on the cutting edge," Mr. Jorrey said.

The Ohio tour was organized by Green Energy Ohio as part of the 13th annual National Solar Tour, which falls each year on the first weekend in October.

The national tour is coordinated by the American Solar Energy Society in conjunction with National Energy Awareness Month.

Contact JC Reindl at:


or 419-724-6065.

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