Saturday marked the summer solstice, or longest day of the year. It also marked Pittsburgh’s first festival to celebrate solar power. The event, called SolarFest, was held in Millvale’s Riverfront Park and DECO’s team was there to present the Solar Water Garden prototype .
DECO’s Engineering Team poses at our table with the Solar Water Garden prototype
The Future Is Bright
Many locals wrongly believe that Pittsburgh is “too cloudy” for solar power to be effective. In reality, solar power has more to do with irradiance than cloud cover and Pennsylvania has higher levels of it than does Germany, the leading country globally for solar electricity production. Basically, this means that Pennsylvania has tremendous potential for solar energy. Hosted by SUNWPA, Sierra Club, and the Borough of Millvale, this weekend’s event held testament to the growing network of solar advocates. From PV contractors like Adam Solar Resources, EIS Solar, and Scalo Solar to environmental groups like GTECH and Clean Energy Resources, there were nearly two dozen local organizations providing resources for alternative energy and energy efficiency.
Solar works in PA and companies in PA are working with solar. Saturday’s event featured a number of interesting uses for solar power. The audio system was powered from solar energy provided by Zero Fossil, much of the food was prepared in food trucks that had solar panels, and our Solar Water Garden was growing plants and circulating water with a single panel. All of this was done on a particularly overcast, cloudy Pittsburgh day.
SolarFest banner in the Millvale Riverfront Park pavilion
Solar works in PA and companies in PA are working with solar.
Solar powered food, music, and fun
Green Infrastructure in Millvale
Most of the groups presenting at SolarFest are based locally. With the DECO Water Gardens being manufactured at the Open Floor Maker Space on Sedgwick Street in Millvale, we were proud to be one of the most local organizations at the event. Still, some people were surprised to see this type of event being held in the small community.
To understand how SolarFest (and DECO) came to Millvale, it is important to understand some history of the town. It’s name comes from location of the town in a valley that once had a thriving mill. The mill industry was based on Girty’s Run, which flows through the valley. Traditional infrastructure like parking lots and gutters left Girty’s Run prone to severe flooding. Eventually, people realized that impervious surfaces and poor water management were causing many costly problems in the community. The borough decided to do something about it.
Green infrastructure, according to the EPA, “uses vegetation, soils, and natural processes to manage water and create healthier urban environments.” The borough of Millvale embraced this technology and is using it to reduce the burden of stormwater on Girty’s Run. DECO is working to integrate our Water Gardens into the Green Infrastructure solution for Millvale and the City of Pittsburgh. Millvale-based New Sun Rising held a business development workshop earlier in June that featured DECO Water Gardens.
Participants from the New Sun Rising workshop visiting the Water Garden manufacturing facility in Millvale
Solar power is an excellent complement to Green Infrastructure for a variety of reasons. Millvale recently outfitted its library with a tremendous solar array and Green Infrastructure like rain barrels and rain gardens. With the success of the library and the other greener features in the town, it makes sense to showcase these accomplishments with SolarFest.
Rowers seen enjoying the Allegheny River from Millvale’s Riverfront Park during SolarFest
The environmental benefits from solar power include a reduction in usage of fossil fuels like coal and oil. The image below from solargain.com.au illustrates that the energy produced from solar panels is far more efficient than energy sources like coal. Solar panels are becoming stronger and more efficient even as their costs are coming down. More importantly, it works. We want to thank SUNWPA, the Sierra Club, the borough of Millvale, and everyone else who helped out for putting together SolarFest. We also want to thank everyone who stopped by to talk to us this weekend!