Clark Planetarium
The Clark Planetarium's roof-mounted solar energy system is capable of generating up to 25,000 watts of electricity on a sunny day.

Utah kicked off its annual solar tour this week with an event at the Clark Planetarium, highlighting the increasing demand for sun power in the Beehive State.

The tour, which will open to the public on Saturday and again on Sept. 27, features more than 55 homes and businesses with solar electric, solar thermal, small wind, and micro-hydro electric systems. Tour participants also will be able to ask questions of the homeowners or business owners regarding their solar-powered technologies, said Rebecca Nelson, assistant director of Utah Clean Energy.

The tour is sponsored by her group, as well as the Utah Solar Energy Association, the Utah State Energy Program, and Green Power Solutions Inc.

The free, self-guided tour this Saturday will take place from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Salt Lake, Provo, Orem, Park City and Ogden. On Sept. 27, the tour will be offered in St. George and Cedar City.

"More Utahns than ever are tapping into the power of the sun," said Orrin Farnsworth, president of the Utah Solar Energy Association in a news release. "Energy prices, available solar incentives and advances in technologies are driving this industry forward."

Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon on Wednesday was among the civic leaders at the planetarium who expressed strong support for the increased use of solar energy.

"It's part of our mission to not only care for our environment but reduce our energy consumption, as well as educate our citizens about alternative energy uses, especially solar power," he said. "We have over 300 days of sun in the state of Utah. We're the second-sunniest state in the nation, and we should put that sun to use."

Corroon said the county is working toward a goal of reducing its energy consumption by 20 percent over the next few years, while increasing the use of renewable energy. The county has audited all of its buildings and determined that it will install more solar panels where necessary to take advantage of the energy savings and efficiencies provided by clean solar power, he said.

Park City Councilwoman Liza Simpson said leaders in her community are also committed to supporting the use of renewable energy.

"We believe our job is to lead by example, to educate and to legislate," she said.

Park City has already done a carbon footprint of city facilities and is working on doing a footprint for the entire community. The city now has solar-powered parking meters, and the new police facility was oriented to the south to take advantage of natural ambient lighting provided by the sun.

For more information about the tour, visit www.UTSolar.org.


E-mail: jlee@desnews.com