Behind the Scenes

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When the Solar Explorer team from Silicon Valley Power set out to design and build a mobile energy-efficiency learning center in 2002, they never anticipated the learning experience they were about to encounter.

“We know a lot more about construction now than we did before this project started,” says Leslie Brown, Energy Conservation Specialist.

The task involved converting a storage shed into a miniature ‘house on wheels.’ But not just any old house. This one had to be equipped with solar panels and energy-efficient devices and displays.

The first steps involved mounting a shed built by Tuff Shed Company on to a trailer made by Orlandi Trailer of San Jose. From there, EcoEnergies of Sunnyvale set out to install a solar-electric, or photovoltaic (PV), system on the shed.

The Solar Explorer was then moved to the City of Santa Clara's electrical yard, where Division Manager Greg Garcia, Utility Electrician Steve Seuss, and Electrical Maintenance Worker Ed Giardena spent a full week installing the wiring.

“It may not look like much, but a lot of planning and precise work went into getting the wiring just right,” says Garcia. “It had to be functional and serve as a display.”

Team member and Energy Conservation Specialist Mike Vitarelli also helped to make the functional displays easy to view, interactive, and somewhat kid-proof. On the scene to assist was Public Benefits Coordinator Joyce Kinnear, who loves to paint. Senior Key Customer Representative Mary Medeiros McEnroe and Division Manager for Customer Service and Marketing Larry Owens pitched in as well.


In 2010 the Solar Explorer facility was updated with the latest in sustainable materials.

SVP Energy Conservation Coordinator Herb Marshall and team member KSolar Explorer - Interiorevin Carley installed Marmoleum flooring made of organic materials containing no Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC). Counters were reconstructed using bamboo and paperstone, which is made from recycled paper and a water-based, petroleum-free resin. They topped off the remodel using low-VOC paint to dramatically reduce the toxins emitted by traditional paints.

The Solar Explorer is now complete and fully operational, with updated materials and displays. Be sure to stop by for a tour at an upcoming local appearance-or call 408-244-SAVE (7283) to book an appearance at your Santa Clara school or local community group.

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