Archive for Solar Town USA

Jul
02

Solar Town USA Media Coverage

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Feb
01

Solar Town USA article on Oprah.com

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Jun
29

Solar Town USA Clips

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Clips of the documentary can be seen here.

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Jun
29

“Solar Town USA” to air across Europe and Asia

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Solar Town USA, the ambitious follow-up to the Gracie Award-winning documentary, “Breaking the Curse” has been picked up by international distributor Electric Sky in London to air across Europe and Asia.  ”Solar Town USA” tells the story of America’s first solar town and how it has shaped the alternative energy ideas and policies of today.  It was produced and directed by Brian Kosisky and co-produced by Joy Kosisky and Daryn Kagan.

The inspiring story of a small town 30 years ahead of its time.

A community ravaged by 100 years of flooding. Dreams built, rebuilt, then washed away.

See what the people of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin did in the face of adversity and how their bold innovation and will to survive as a community turned them into America’s first solar town.

Three decades after their landmark move, we’ll revisit Soldiers Grove and its residents for a look at what’s worked, what hasn’t and how we can use the lessons they’ve learned to build a more sustainable future.

* * *

You’ll meet Bill Becker, a military veteran and journalist who, after covering the war in Vietnam,becker sought solace in the picturesque and simple town of Soldiers Grove. He was not prepared for the threat of the nearby Kickapoo River.

For years, the river was the source of drinking water, farm irrigation and transportation. But it was also temperamental, and summer storms brought continued devastation.

Already skeptical of the Army Corps of Engineers’ repeated attempts to fix the situation with levees and dams, Becker was not convinced that trying to contain the river was a realistic solution.

One day while in casual conversation, a fellow resident joked to Becker that they should just “pick this town up and move it out of here.” After another monstrous flood in 1978, that’s exactly what the residents of Soldiers Grove set out to do, but with a twist…

hirschTom Hirsch, an architect fresh out of college, was asked to lead the relocation study and not only rebuild the town from scratch, but also make it energy independent. First, residents had to move out of the flood plain and onto higher ground. Then, a landmark ordinance was instituted that required all new buildings get at least half of their heating energy from solar sources. It was a risky undertaking.

“Nobody had done this before that we knew of,” said Hirsch. “We were making it up as we went.” What they made was revolutionary – a “solar attic” that used solar panels on a building’s roof to draw in the sun’s heat and trap it above, where a series of vents carried the warm air throughout the building.

dworshacksThe Dworshack family, originally from the suburbs of Milwaukee, moved to Soldiers Grove in 2004 and took sustainable living a step further. With no connection to power or plumbing, they currently live off solar energy, a wood stove and their own garden. They say they aren’t trying to change the world, they’re just doing what they can to make a difference.

Bill Becker, the small-town journalist who spearheaded the relocation of Soldiers Grove, changed careers and worked for the Department of Energy, helping other towns faced with similar problems. He has been from Illinois to Missouri, to Thailand and back to New Orleans, where he helped introduce the concept of solar energy after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina.

Becker helped develop a Department of Energy program that moved innovations in solar technology from the lab to the marketplace; innovations that are creating the solar-powered homes of today.

coteCalifornia environmental activist Chris Cote was excited by the innovations in solar technology, but frustrated in the lack of implementation by the homebuilders in his community– so Chris became a homebuilder himself!  He now builds communities of houses powered by the sun.

And the newest solar towns– they’re being built by college students!  Every two years, the Department of Energy turns the National Mall in Washington, DC into a showcase of solar powered homes created by Universities across the world.decathlon

Now, the lessons of Soldiers Grove are being used to help another small Mid-western town.  Greensburg Kansas was wiped out by an EF5 tornado in May 2007.  As residents rebuild, they are transforming their town into a solar and wind-powered tourist destination.

Solar Town USA’s film crew had exclusive access to the 2007 State of Wisconsin-sponsored evaluation of Soldiers Grove’s solar systems and its attempts to bring the systems up to date. The film offers an honest assessment of the first solar town in the nation, what worked, what didn’t, and those people trying to advance solar today. It is an entertaining, emotionally engaging, and educational story that is never preachy or political in tone.

With its traditional storytelling format and contemporary and stylistic visuals, Solar Town USA shows what’s possible when people work together against adversity. Expect many twists and surprises…and lessons for the future solar towns of the world.


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