The Douglas County Global Warming Coalition took about 40 people in a small caravan of buses, vans and a few personal vehicles on a tour of the Smart Energy & Solar Tour in Douglas County on Saturday.

Coalition board member Stuart Liebowitz said the organization has been taking community members to different sites featuring the latest in energy innovations for 17 years.

“Technology is getting better and more innovative, and we like to introduce that to our community,” Liebowitz said. “The wonderful thing about our county is it is oftentimes at the forefront, and we want to stimulate this type of action on energy efficiency. This is the future of our country and we need to be part of it.”

The tour stopped at a private rental unit, a residential home, Saving Grace animal shelter and the new Hampton Inn and Suites.

Melanie McKinnon led the tour, which started at Phoenix Charter School.The tour highlights newly constructed or remodeled buildings with energy-efficient features.

“We ask around a lot and because we have a strong and diverse membership, we learn about energy projects in our community that would be great to share,” McKinnon said. “Renewable energy is something both business owners and home owners can take advantage of.”

One of the regular attendees is M. A. Hansen, who’s been coming almost as long as the coalition has been hosting the tours.

“I got tired of people saying, ‘I wish I could live sustainably like you do, but I live in town.’ I get rid of ‘buts,’” Hansen said. “I came to answer questions for people who want to know what to do to live off the grid.”

Hansen has degrees in solar energy and teaches urban sustainability to the community while rejecting all fossil fuel power to her home in town.

Cleo and Gerald Kale came for the first time this year because they want to learn how to be self-sustaining, and are interested in adding their own solar array.

“This is good, if you can get the power company to buy the electricity and take it off your bill,” Gerald Kale said. “I look at this roof and I see how much water could be collected.”

Other attendees weren’t looking to go completely off the grid, but just wanted to save money or to get education on the changes to the technology and the benefits.

Maris Wilson is in Oregon with Americorps, a government endorsed, voluntary civil society program engaging adults in public service.

“I wanted to know more about it since my students are here,” Wilson said. “It’s a good opportunity to meet people in the industry and get some resources for my students.”

The tour is held every year with support from the Energy Trust of Oregon.

“It’s a fun tour as well as an educational one,” Liebowitz said. “People enjoy the tour and learn from each other.”

Janelle Polcyn can be reached at or 541-957-4204. Or follow her on Twitter @JanellePolcyn.

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Janelle Polcyn is the business reporter at The News-Review, graduated from the University of Texas, and is a podcast enthusiast.

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