People in Charlottesville are learning more about solar energy while riding on two wheels. The Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) hosted its annual Tour De Solar bike ride around Downtown Charlottesville.

The ride started at Community Bikes on Avon Street and ended at the Sun Tribe Solar Warehouse. On the five-mile tour, riders got the chance to see solar installations on homes and businesses.

"It's really important to show people what solar looks like so it's not a foreign object or a foreign concept to them and that way they can you know see a real-life example and they can get familiar with the technology,” said Ryan Vanpatten, solar program manager.

Solar installations create renewable and clean energy without burning fossil fuels. They also save money in the long term.

Local Energy Alliance Program Press Release: 

Charlottesville, Virginia – Local organizations team up to host Tour de Solar: a community bike ride of solar installations in the downtown area.

The Local Energy Alliance Program (LEAP) was thrilled to co-host the Tour de Solar event on Saturday, June 1, with the Charlottesville Climate Collaborative (C3), the Piedmont Environmental Council, and the City of Charlottesville. Mirroring the idea of clean energy for our homes with clean energy for transportation, this event was inspired by the Charlottesville community’s enthusiasm for going solar, other successful group bike rides such as the Tour de Coop, and Bike Month activities in May.

Susan Elliott, the Climate Protection Program Manager at the City of Charlottesville, shared her perspective on why the city got involved with the tour: “We’re excited the Tour de Solar ride is happening again this year. It’s an event that builds community connections, helps people see solar in place locally, learn about how they too can go solar, and introduces them to easy, fun routes they can use to bike around town later on. It’s a great combination of local places, local action, and local opportunities - all of which have the added benefit of supporting climate action and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

Tour de Solar featured about 15 solar installations on both homes and businesses in five neighborhoods near downtown Charlottesville. After starting with a bike tune-up at the local nonprofit Community Bikes, participants enjoyed a relaxed bike ride, while getting insight from solar experts from LEAP and local solar companies about the installations. Planned as a low-stress bike ride, the group took advantage of bike infrastructure the City has installed in recent years to make riding around town easier and safer.

A lively lunch Q&A at the Sun Tribe Solar warehouse - including a serenade from the local environmentally-minded singing group Green Grannies - followed the ride, giving participants a chance to further discuss the tour and any specific questions. The goal of the day was primarily to educate participants on the feasibility and logistics of solar energy, as well as to encourage them to implement solar energy in their own homes and businesses through LEAP's Solarize campaigns.

Solarize Virginia is a community-based outreach initiative that brings solar power to Virginians. Managed by LEAP, Solarize Virginia works in partnership with the Piedmont Environmental Council, local governments, and other supporters, to help home and business owners install solar at a discounted rate through regional Solarize campaigns. So far, LEAP’s Solarize Virginia campaigns have achieved 463 solar power system installations, totaling at least 3.23 MW of capacity.

Throughout Tour de Solar, Ryan Van Patten, Solar Program Manager at LEAP, explained the impact of residential solar energy: “A rooftop or ground mounted, solar system can provide up to 100% of a home's energy demand. Installing a solar system not only helps the environment by reducing greenhouse gases created by the transportation and burning of fossil fuels, but it can bring forth economic benefits as well.”

LEAP’s partner organizations were excited to collaborate on the bike tour, and noted the importance of community engagement. “These social bike rides are a fun way for residents to meet neighbors, have fun, and learn how to reduce their carbon footprint in the two areas that matter most: power generation and transportation,” says Peter Krebs, Community Outreach Coordinator for Piedmont Environmental Council.

As a co-host, C3 found the goals of the tour to be compatible with their own mission. "At C3, we're all about building a climate action community. This event brings it home by connecting people with a hands-on experience for riding around on two wheels, and getting the 411 on going solar,” says Claire Habel, Residential Program Manager at C3.

The current Solarize Piedmont campaign continues through June 14th. For more information about Solarize Virginia, visit: