Sebastopol's solar flair - 2,000 attend city's first fair
Norberg The Press Democrat 2003.8.18
Children played with solar-powered tops and trains while alternative
energy proponents touted the power of the sun at the first Solar
Sebastopol Fair and Celebration.
"Education about solar energy is the biggest thing we can
do at a local level, and the fair is the first step," said
City Councilman Sam Spooner.
The daylong festival, which drew about 2,000 people, was organized
for the city by Cooperative
Community Energy of San Rafael, a 2-year-old nonprofit group
that helps its members get photovoltaic solar systems purchased,
permitted and installed.
"The decision on whether to have solar installed is complicated.
There is a lot involved," said co-op spokeswoman Lori Houston.
"Cooperative Community Energy does site visits and analyses
to determine energy usage, helps with permits and helps with the
energy rebate program."
A typical home, for instance, would need a 2.4-kilowatt-per-hour
system to meet its power needs, which would cost about $19,000 and
be eligible for a $9,500 rebate.
The city of Sebastopol's goal under Solar Sebastopol is to encourage
businesses and homeowners within the next two years to install enough
solar to generate 1 megawatt of power, enough to power 500 homes.
The fair was the kickoff of the campaign, Spooner said. And it
included the usual festival booths for food, beer and wine, and
children's activities, including face-painting.
But solar was the draw, and there were a number of manufacturers
using photovoltaic panels to turn sunlight into electricity, running
such appliances as electric fans and ice cream makers.
"It's great in that it brings the community here. It's not
just a trade show," said Geoff Sharples of SeventhGen Finance,
an Oakland company that provides solar energy system financing.
"It is not just about selling the systems. It is a fun thing
and fits with renewable energy and with the people making their
For the most part, the fair drew a conservation-minded crowd already
convinced of solar's potential. "I'm an advocate of solar energy,
but not for me, my bill is too low," said Monique Rubin of
Sebastopol. "I'm interested in the community aspect. I think
it is the way society has to go."
Mike Clifford was considering solar for his yard irrigation system.
"I'm interested in putting up a nonwired solar irrigation system
for my yard," Clifford said.
Chance Massaro of Santa Rosa was intrigued by the Sustainable Solar
Utility Vehicle, a two-seater electric golf cart laden with photovoltaic
panels with an $8,000 price tag and an advertise cruising speed
of 25 mph. "I'd switch to that in a heartbeat," said Massaro,
who now has a 10-year-old Saturn with 300,000 miles on it. "I
could see myself driving one of these things."
But mostly, the fair was a chance for solar shoppers to do some
tire-kicking, said Erin McMahon of San Francisco, another Cooperative
Community Energy worker. "This fair is to get visibility for
the technology," McMahon said. "It gives people a hands-on
way to see the technology and ask questions."