Weekend Planner: Let the sunshine in

Weekend Planner: Let the sunshine in

For the fourth time, the Willenbrock home in Champaign will be part of the 10th annual Illinois Solar Tour, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Scott Willenbrock, a University of Illinois physics professor, looks forward to it again. And so does his mutt, Coco, the friendliest dog you'll meet. "Coco is very excited about the solar tour because she loves to have people come to our house," Willenbrock said. At his house on Champaign's White Street, visitors also will hear about the solar panels on the roofs of his home and garage and the geothermal heating and cooling system, all retrofitted to the 1929 home. And they'll experience his Tesla Model X, an electric car. Here's more on the free, self-guided Solar Tour, compliments of staff writer Melissa Merli:

  1. Since installing solar power and the geothermal system, the Willenbrocks' energy bills went down to zero. "Any energy I put onto the energy grid I get credit for and I can use later when I need it, like at night when I'm not generating electricity," Willenbrock said. "Generally speaking, I build up credits during the summer and use them over the winter." As for the Illinois Solar Tour, he thinks it's great and doesn't mind visits from strangers: "Lots of people come. I enjoy meeting people. And some people have been inspired to take action. That's a good feeling for me," he said.
     
  2. The Illinois Solar Energy Association, which formed in 1975, sponsors the tour, which will take in more than 100 solar-savvy homes, businesses and schools statewide to give tour participants a perspective on the costs, processes and economic and environmental benefits of going solar. Each year, the self-guided tour attracts more than 1,000 people statewide, For their participation on the tour, the owners of the homes and other venues are recognized as "clean energy leaders."
     
  3. The venues in this area that are part of the tour: Resnick-Ryan home, 503 W. Indiana Ave., U; Greeley home, 2206 Cureton Drive, U; Tracy home, 2805 Wedgewood Drive, C; Tewksbury home, 1016 W. White St., C; Willenbrock home, 1017 W. White St., C; Weider home, 1606 Ridge Road, C; Gable Home, 1900 S. First St., C; Booker T. Washington Elementary School, 606 E. Grove St., C; Geil home, 2060 B County Road 125E, Mahomet; Shephard home, 409 W. Oregon St., U; Yonke home, 3603 S. Race St., U; Ertekin home, 402 W. Nevada St., Urbana; and Excel Eco Clean, 640 Castle Drive, Charleston.

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