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LET THE SUN SHINE IN

Homes and offices open their doors to show solar power at work.

Solar energy gets its, ahem, day in the sun today during the 14th National Solar Tour, billed as the "world's largest grass roots solar event."

Nearly 5,000 homes and businesses in 3,000 communities will be open to show consumers solar energy at work in the real world.

Fifteen tours are set across Florida, including the Tampa Bay Solar Home Tour (see story, Page 6H) and an open house at Solar Source in Largo, Florida's largest solar contractor.

This is Solar Source's third year as part of the national tour, spokesman Erik Walsh says. "It's about raising awareness of solar energy."

Solar energy has become big business in Florida in the past three years, with the state's planned investment in solar energy crossing the $1 billion mark this spring.

Florida State University's off-grid building opened in summer as a showcase of sustainable energy use. Thirty solar panels produce the home's electricity, part of which is used to turn water into hydrogen. That, in turn, provides power at night and on cloudy or rainy days.

The FSU house is not on the national tour, but it is open to the public from 2 to 5 p.m. the first and third Friday of each month.

The national event, coordinated by the American Solar Energy Society, is in its 14th year. Learn more online at ases.org.

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IF YOU GO

ASES National Solar Tour

SOLAR SOURCE: The Largo company, Florida's largest solar contractor, will have three solar systems on display at its warehouse from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. today. Solar Source is located at 10840 Endeavor Way. Call (727) 572-4247.

Tampa Bay Solar Home Tour

The tour kicks off at 10 a.m. today at USF's Research Park, 3720 Spectrum Blvd., Tampa. Short talks will focus on installing solar systems and their cost benefits.

Beginning at 11:15 a.m., free shuttle buses will depart Research Park for two-hour tours of homes in Temple Terrace, Seminole Heights and Northdale. (Bus departure times are 11:15 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:15 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. and are on a first-come, first-served basis.) For those who prefer to drive, information will be available at USF and at Central Cafe and Organics, 243 Central Ave., St. Petersburg, (727) 824-0881.

For more details about the tour, call (813) 390-7546 or go totampasolartour.blogspot.com or nationalsolartour.org.

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