I'm a Sputnik baby–born in 1957, just a couple of weeks before that first satellite launched the Space Age. For the past 52 years I've had my sights fixed on the horizon and what comes next. It's no wonder my favorite land in Disneyland has always been Tomorrowland.
But if you'd like a trip to a real Tomorrowland without ever leaving Hermosa Beach, then this Saturday, May 8, is your star date. That's the day the South Bay's Environmental Priority Network is sponsoring its free, 5th annual Solar Homes Tour, and three of its "E Ticket" attractions are all within walking distance of each other in Hermosa.
To add to the Fantasyland bonus to things, you can park for free (wow!) at St. Cross by-the-Sea Episcopal Church and walk. Just download the PDF flyer for walking directions.
In my travels as an environmentalist I hear a lot of people talk about solar without having much of a clue about how it really works, what it really costs and what it's like to generate free electricity on their roof from the sun–instead of burning fossil fuels to make it. Your hosts on the Solar Homes Tour, however, are already living in the solar-powered future and actually know what they're talking about from personal experience. Imagine that ...
The tour runs from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the very first house in Hermosa Beach to get solar installed, the 2415 Silverstrand Ave. home of Dency and Moira Nelson, who I've written about before. The Nelsons original 2.7 kW system was installed back in the last century (1999). They're now adding additional, more powerful PV panels to bring the total system power to 4 kW of electric production.
The extra solar power will eventually charge the new Nissan Leaf electric car Dency and Moira are on the waiting list for. Brad Bartz of ABC Solar is doing the upgrade work at this house. He'll be there Saturday morning to answer questions and explain how the Nelsons' old/new combo solar system works.
House number two on your walkable Hermosa Solar Homes Tour is open for visitors from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Homeowner Dan Inskeep will proudly show off his 6 kW, 36-panel system that powers two different residences at 79 16th St.
The third house on this Hermosa portion of your visit is actually a house of worship. St. Cross started generating its own power from above in 2008, when the church had 70 photovoltaic solar panels installed over three areas of its roof.
Producing 14 kW of zero-emission power, the church's solar installation was researched and overseen by vestry member Bill McLaren, who will serve as your host at this stop on your tour. Bill got bids from six different solar installers before making his final choice, so he can give you his unbiased opinion about your different options.
At this point you can hop in your car and continue on the non-Hermosa segment of your Solar Homes Tour by visiting homes of different sizes in Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach and Torrance.
The future isn't only on the roofs and in the electrical wirings of the dozen different homes that welcome your visit during this tour. You'll also discover green solutions for solar hot water; drought-tolerant landscaping; energy efficiency in lighting, appliances and automated systems; materials recycling; using natural light; passive solar heating and cooling; and many other sustainable practices.
These are the super-smart practices everyone will be running their homes with in the world of tomorrow, but they're all available to save you money and resources right now, right here.
If you'd really like to go back to the future on Saturday, be sure to ask all the solar homeowners what it's like to have all that extra money in their pockets--money they once paid the electric company or just threw away through wasteful energy habits. Ask them if they have any regrets. I bet you a carbon credit they all say they regret not getting solar sooner, and getting more of it.
Joe Galliani is a weekly environmental columnist for Hermosa Beach Patch.