Steve and Jane Kristenson

The eager first two visitors to the Camrose Solar Home Tour arrived at Steve and Jane Kristenson’s home five minutes before the event was due to start. The couple barely had a break in the action until it ended four hours later.

Newo joined forces with Augustana professor Greg King, Denise Hawkins from Camrose Energy and Greg Arends from Solar Harvest to put on the tour, and we were thrilled by the number of people who showed up to view solar energy in action.

Collectively, there were over 200 visits to the six host sites, which were comprised of four residential roof-mounted systems, a rural ground mount and a rooftop array on Bethel Lutheran Church. A few of the guests travelled from as far away as Edmonton, while others brought along visiting houseguests from places such as Montreal, the Netherlands and Bulgaria.

Lianne and Josh
Bev and Ben

Hosts overwhelmingly reported an experience of “positive, interested and curious” visitors.

“It was definitely worth it and we thoroughly enjoyed it. Steve talks about our solar panels all the time, and this gave him a venue,” Jane laughed. “We’re introverts, and it was just a great way to have people come to our house. We’ve never had that many people!”

The chance to talk to neighbours who had made the switch to solar energy seemed to appeal to the tour visitors, with questions covering everything from cost, to materials, to production, to payback, to installation experiences. Jane noted it was helpful to have their son, who also has solar, and grandson, who has modified his own electric bicycle, on hand to help engage with visitors.

“For us to say it looks like we could pay this off in four years? That’s been amazing to me, because I was the one who was saying, ‘Are you kidding? At this age? Why would we do this?’ Of course, that’s a great selling point,” Jane said.

Lawrence Bergquist, Bethel Lutheran Church
Greg and Emily

Among many of the hosts, solar is just one tool for reducing energy dependence. Two shared their experiences of building and retrofitting, respectively, their net-zero homes. Another host was asked how their monthly electrical needs could possibly be covered by their modest solar system, and shared how they had mindfully categorized their consumption into needs, wants and don’t need.

“Our system suits us, but not everybody,” they said. “If you don’t want to be putting in a humongous system, have a look at how you live and what changes you can make.”

The Kristensons, who installed their system through Newo in 2021, run their garden tools on electricity and are hoping to install a heat pump and get an electric car in order to go gas and oil free. That so many strangers were curious enough about alternative energy solutions to stop by and talk was unexpected, but positive.

“I think we were surprised at the response, but really encouraged about the interest in solar in Camrose,” Jane said. “It’s great. Maybe we can be some kind of leader here in the solar movement.”

Dallas, with the help of daughter Sky (pictured)