2020 solar tour goes virtual


The 25 th annual National Solar Tour, running Sept. 28-Oct. 4, will have a different look and feel this year. Workshops through the week and the tours Oct. 3-4 will be virtual. Participants will be able to view solar tour videos online from all across the country, versus in a typical year when the tours were onsite and limited to how far one would travel.

Solar United Neighbors and the American Solar Energy Society have put together a week of online programming for anyone interested in learning about solar energy applications. Workshops include electric vehicles, solar electric, solar for businesses, solar for schools and more.

The Minnesota Renewable Energy Society ( ) has also networked with SUN for the solar tour and hosts many virtual sites around Minnesota and Wisconsin. Register for free at .

Balsam Moon, a local site “hosted” by Doug Weiss and Barb Mann, will participate in the virtual solar tour for the fourth year. Their video tour shows the many uses of solar energy at their place, including a solar furnace, a solar electric array, an electric car, a deep winter solar greenhouse and uses of passive solar.

Weiss went solar initially in 2009 with a solar furnace installed by the Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a company just north of Pine River.


“I went solar because I was concerned about the depletion of our fossil fuel resources and the harmful impact of their use on the environment," Weiss said in a news release.

In subsequent years, he added a solar electric array in 2011, also installed by RREAL; applied passive solar uses with south facing windows; added a deep winter solar greenhouse in 2019 for growing vegetables in the winter; and bought the electric car in 2019. He is presently constructing a passive solar furnace to heat the garage.

The decision to access solar energy was a positive one that they enjoy sharing with others.

Whether you’re new to the idea of going solar, or you’re a solar homeowner interested in seeing how others have adapted solar technology, the National Solar Tour is a free and pressure-free way to learn more.

Weiss and Mann, caretakers of Balsam Moon, work with a common vision in creating Balsam Moon: “an emerging vision of peace, sustainability, and renewal in partnership with Earth, Spirit, and People." In addition to solar technology, the place features a wood-fired furnace, a wood-fired barrel oven, a stream-fed pond, hiking trails, a labyrinth in the woods, organic gardens and simple accommodations for overnight visits/retreats.

They offer hospitality, shared learning, renewal, community building and fun. For more information, visit the Facebook page "Balsam Moon."

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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