Local

Bright spots in Illinois

Geothermal homeowner Bruce Killips installed solar panels and energy efficient windows on the roof of his Bull Valley home. Homes in Spring Grove, Prairie Grove and Bull Valley are among about 10 in the county participating Saturday in the Illinois Solar Tour.
Geothermal homeowner Bruce Killips installed solar panels and energy efficient windows on the roof of his Bull Valley home. Homes in Spring Grove, Prairie Grove and Bull Valley are among about 10 in the county participating Saturday in the Illinois Solar Tour.

Bruce Killips has solar panels on his roof, a geothermal heating and cooling system, and an envelope house. And this weekend, anyone can stop by and take a look.

The Bull Valley resident is part of the Illinois Solar Tour, which runs statewide from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The free, self-guided tour is run in conjunction with the American Solar Energy Society’s National Tour. In Illinois, it will showcase about 190 sites that use renewable energy throughout the state, nine of which are in McHenry County.

“People open their homes and businesses for other people to come and see how easy renewable energy is to install and use,” said Lesley McCain, spokeswoman for the Illinois Solar Energy Association, which organized Illinois’ portion of the nationwide event. “There’s a lot more renewable energy ... and people want to show it off.”

Killips, who’s participating in the tour for the first time, will offer visitors a tour of his home, which he built in 1983 with renewable energy already in mind.

It’s called an envelope home because the main living areas are in the inner house, which are enveloped by an outer house. Killips uses the shell to insulate and also rotates hot or cold air through it.

The house faces the solar south, which means that side gets the most possible sun light every day. The roof on that side is lined with passive solar windows, which let in sunlight to help heat the home.

“I get the maximum exposure to the sun, “ Killips said.

To get even more out of the house’s solar south side, he also lined most of the roof with two kinds of solar panels in May 2008. A row of photovoltaic, or PV, solar panels provide electricity, while a row of solar thermal panels heat his water and his home.

Plus, the amount of carbon dioxide saved is equivalent to planting an acre and a half of trees each year.

Killips’ efforts weren’t cheap, though. The PV solar panels were $48,000, and the solar thermal panels were $24,000.

However, he did get $20,000 in state rebates, as well as $4,000 in federal tax credits. And they should pay for themselves with energy savings in about 10 to 12 years, he said.

Killips doesn’t know how long it will be before homes like his are mainstream, but he’d like to see communities require at least some renewable energy in new construction.

“I just think it’s a matter of time before we wake up and realize we need to look at other alternatives,” he said. “Oil is a finite resource. The sun isn’t.”

Another stop on the tour is Cherry Lane Farm in Marengo. Trudi Temple, owner of the agribusiness farm, will show off her solar panels that track with the sun, her small wind turbine, and her solar hot water system.

“Many people stop by even without the solar tour ... and look to our farm as an example of what can be done,” Temple said.

She declined to say how much she spent on all the projects, but added that cost shouldn’t deter people.

“You have to make up your mind whether or not you will invest in saving our earth or just having money in the bank that is getting more and more worthless,” Temple said. “I just hope that everyone strives to become [energy] independent.”

McCain hopes that Saturday’s tour will help people take a step in that direction.

“[There’s] a lot of great opportunities in their neighborhood to see what their neighbors are doing,” she said. “We would love people to go and just see that it is easy to do.”

If you go

The Illinois Solar Tour, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, offers visitors a chance to tour businesses and homes throughout the state that use renewable energy.

Here are the local sites:

• Brook Farm, 9306 Lawrence Road, Harvard

Technologies at site: solar electric

• Cherry Lane Farm, 18317 Garden Valley Road, Marengo

Technologies at site: solar electric, wind electric, solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, passive solar design

• Killips, 715 Concord Drive, Bull Valley

Technologies at site: solar electric, solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, passive solar design, geothermal

• Maziarz, 8507 Saint Moritz Drive, Spring Grove

Technologies at site: solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, passive solar design

• Smith, 2640 Nish Road, Prairie Grove

Technologies at site: solar domestic hot water, solar space heating, geothermal

• Solar Bright - Meyer, 3613 SE Overton Drive, Richmond

Technologies at site: passive solar design

• Tauck, 1304 Deerpass Road, Marengo

Technologies at site: solar electric, wind electric, solar domestic hot water

• Tucker, 323 Tulip Circle, Island Lake

Technologies at site: solar domestic hot water, passive solar design

• Wesley, 4710 W. Shore Drive, McHenry

Technologies at site: solar electric, solar domestic hot water

For a full list of participating sites, visit http://tour.illinoissolar.org/ and click on “Directory of Buildings.”

Loading more

Digital Access

Digital Access
Access nwherald.com from all your digital devices and receive breaking news and updates from around the area.

Home Delivery

Home Delivery
Local news, prep sports, Chicago sports, local and regional entertainment, business, home and lifestyle, food, classified and more! News you use every day! Daily, weekend and Sunday packages.

Text Alerts

Text Alerts
Stay connected to us wherever you are! Get breaking news updates along with other area information sent to you as a text message to your wireless device.

Email Newsletters

Email Newsletters
We'll deliver news & updates to your inbox. Plan your weekend and catch up on the news with our newsletters.