Solar Transportation

For those who are stuck in the tour-bus rut, consider a solar-electric vehicle that can transport eight to 22 passengers. “Solar-electric trolleys have been tried and tested at resorts for years,” says Bowie. “We are taking that transportation into parks, neighborhoods and downtowns for tourism and resident transportation.”

Follow The Lead

With more branches of government and communities looking to be considered green role models, there are plenty of places for inspiration. In April 2009, the Cincinnati Park Foundation rolled out a solar work cart built by a team of college students from Cincinnati State, who were mentoring high-school students from Clark Montessori. The project was sponsored by a grant from Time Warner.

“We see future uses for the solar cart, such as the litter-pickup route through the park, and staging materials in planting garden beds,” says Jennifer Harten, the region manager at Cincinnati Park Board’s Ault Park.

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum in St. Leonard, Md., purchased a solar-electric hybrid 14-passenger vehicle. “It looks like an extended golf cart, but drives like a manual-shift vehicle,” says Megan Williams, marketing and events coordinator with Jefferson. “We use the cart to conduct tours and kids camp, and to demonstrate our efforts to be greener and more environmentally friendly.”

Since obtaining the cart last year, the staff has only needed to plug it in twice. “We have a lot of full-day events lasting eight hours, and we are transporting people the entire time, and the cart recharges itself throughout the day,” says Williams. “It can go over 25 miles per hour, and is very quiet, so it is easy for people to hear the tour guide.”

Solar Futures

Industry leaders expect to see more street-legal solar-electric carts, and for communities to offer preferred routes for low-speed vehicles. As demand increases, communities across the nation are gearing up to go electric, and to use solar energy as an electric provider.

Project Get Ready, a non-profit initiative led by the Rocky Mountain Institute, in conjunction with a wide array of partners and technical advisers, is a clearinghouse for communities thinking of going electric. Projectgetready.org includes a database of communities going electric as well as technical support.

Before You Fork Over Your Solar Dollar

Before running out and purchasing solar-conversion kits for your carts, take a closer look at who is providing the equipment. “All the big producers will have a 10- to 25-year warranty on the panels,” says Ervin, “and a 5-year warranty on the charge controllers.” Industry leaders advise purchasing solar-energy components directly from the manufacturer rather than from a reseller. Select a solar company that has a long-standing reputation in the solar market, and is a member of the Solar Energies Industries Association.

Tammy York is the owner of LandShark Communications LLC, which specializes in media and public relations for outdoor recreation businesses. Her book, 60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Cincinnati, is available online and in bookstores. You can reach her at landsharkpr@yahoo.com.

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