The cookies were baking in our solar oven, the music was blaring on our solar radio, and our solar car mascot, “the Turtle,” was laboring down the sidewalk. All was good for SolarTown’s open house, which we celebrated yesterday here in our new home in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, DC. We may not have had throngs, but we had a good turnout of friends and neighbors who came to show their support for SolarTown and to share their latest solar war story.
The weather was perfect to hold the open house on our patio, but since we held it late in the afternoon we were not sure whether we would be able to “fire up the grill.” In this case, the “fire” had to come from the sun as the solar oven does not store the sun’s rays. It was late in the afternoon, and the first challenge was the large cumulus clouds looming over us. With the sun oven, it is pretty clear, if the sun doesn’t get through, the oven won’t heat up.
By the time, the clouds blew away, the sun was obscured by a large tree. The same rule applies: no rays, no baking. The temperature on our sun oven was only getting up to about 250 degrees Fahrenheit. But the guest would soon be arriving, so Ali, one of our able summer interns, put the cookie dough in the oven. By the time that the sun faded behind the building across the street, we were able to salvage one batch of cookies—which went very quickly.
The solar radio fared a little better, because the solar radio can store the sun’s rays—but you need about 10 hours of sunlight for a full charge. You can also cheat and install some regular alkaline batteries or even better, it has a hand crank that will provide about 15 minutes of charge for 90 seconds of cranking. The crowd was more interested in talking than listening to the solar radio anyway.
Some of business owners in the neighborhood came by to celebrate our open house. A construction company is interested in installing solar panels on some of its projects. A restaurant owner probably became convinced that the solar oven was not going to replace his commercial ovens, but he did like the idea of using some of our solar table lights to replace candles on the tables in the restaurant patio area. A community banker is interested in financing solar development projects. The owner of a biodiesel production facility that will soon come on line in the District was at our open house to learn more about what we are doing. A fellow board member of Potomac Region Solar Energy Association (PRSEA) also came by to say hello. To all of those who came by to celebrate our new location, thank you for showing your support.