The sun did not shine on Solar Fest on Saturday, but an overcast sky and occasional drop of rain did not deter crowds from stopping by Roosevelt Park for the annual event that mixes fun with solar-powered education.
A steady stream of visitors kept public and private sector vendors busy. Solar Fest, organized by an umbrella nonprofit created by the merger between Solar San Antonio and Build San Antonio Green, this year concentrated efforts toward solar hosting and roofless solar.
The CPS Energy “village” featured representatives from the public utility who talked with customers about various solar issues, as well as partner organizations and businesses.
Joseph Chavez, a global energy analyst with OCI Solar Power, a local company partnering with CPS Energy, said solar power still accounts for less than 1% of the nation’s entire energy capacity, powering about 5 million U.S. homes. But that number will double over the next five to 10 years.
More and larger companies are using solar power, and more jobs are springing up in the solar industry.
“There’s a new solar project being installed in the country every two minutes,” Chavez said during his festival presentation. “It’s still a small portion but it’s making headway.”
Chavez said roofless solar is being slowly accepted by communities nationwide. The roofless, or community, solar program essentially would allow CPS Energy customers “rent” panels in a commercial-scale solar farm and earn discounts on their energy bills based on how much electricity their panels produce.
Colorado-based Clean Energy Collective (CEC) offers a roofless solar option, and is building a local solar farm. CEC would handle maintenance and insurance of “rented” panels for customers.
“We have 11,000 panels that will be going up. We’ll release the farm’s address soon,” said Karen Hartman, CEC co-owner and solar sales specialist.
Aside from solar energy, Solar Fest let visitors learn about other eco-friendly practices such as urban gardening and sustainability.
One group, SATX Permaculture, has a presence on Facebook and will soon have a website. Brian Gordon said he and fellow SATX Permaculture members spread information about regenerative agriculture through free classes and community meetings.
“It’s doing the most with the resources you have on your property with the least amount of energy put into it, leaving the smallest footprint,” Gordon said.
Stephen Lucke, Gardopia CEO, said his nonprofit has benefited from EastPoint federal grant money. He wants to leverage that into private and public sector partnerships. The idea is to encourage residents, especially those who might be dealing with drugs or gangs, to channel their energy into something positive for the community.
“If they grow produce, they can eat it or sell it instead of selling drugs,” he said.
Lucke envisions a community garden and a collective effort involving recycling or selling aluminum cans and pallets. Participants could learn to be entrepreneurs. Anyone can attend their next planning meeting 6 p.m. Nov. 20 at 601 N. New Braunfels Ave.