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Reflections on the ASES Tour in Montana

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Calhoun's solar-powered home in Whitefish, MT

Every year the American Solar Energy Society holds their National Solar Tour, which encourages households and businesses with solar to host voluntary tours that local community members can attend. The tour provides opportunities across the country to learn from the tried-and-true experience of solar customers who have already gone through the process of installation. Here in Montana, we had participants across the state open their homes, in-person or virtually, to demonstrate their solar systems and answer questions about the process, and the benefits.

Lee Calhoun, owner of Northstone Solar, participated for the first time this year, and encouraged several solar households in his community of Whitefish to do the same. Calhoun recently built his home with solar, storage, and energy efficiency in mind and was able to share about each of these aspects with the two dozen community members who stopped by throughout the day.

Calhoun’s home was a great addition to the tour, since this year ASES encouraged site hosts to focus on more than just solar, expanding to storage and energy efficiency as well. What Calhoun noticed about the guests on his tour, and what he notices about most of his customers, is that there is a lot of curiosity around the technology, including questions about how the installation works and what it would mean for their energy reliability throughout the year or in the case of outages on the grid.

Bilo outside her solar-powered home in Bozeman, MT

Susan Bilo, in Bozeman, describes that the guests at her tour appreciate this opportunity to get their questions answered. Bilo participated in the ASES Tour in 2019 and saw one of her neighbors, who had attended, move forward with installing their own system about a year later. Some of her guests at this year’s tour seemed similarly poised to move forward with their own installs. Some were particularly intrigued about her decision to size her system large enough to power her electric vehicle.

“I firmly believe the tour is invaluable and helps citizens feel confident taking their next step” explains Bilo, who has attended the tour herself and has now been a tour host twice. While there are many avenues for learning about solar, Bilo describes that the ASES Tours provide “neutral” information that customers know they can trust.