Energy independence starts at home

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117027508419946.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘The Vogls’ 1.6 PV array on an old hog house (recycled building). ‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117027503225184.jpg’, ‘Photo by Sonia Vogl’, ‘Battery pack that carried us through the day. ‘);

Our grid-provided electricity was out for nearly three hours this past Sunday. Since our battery pack was fully charged by our solar electric panels and wind generator, our lives were not disrupted. The blower fan on our wood furnace continued to keep our well-insulated house warm. We used the microwave oven to heat soup for lunch while music played in the background.

We wondered how others coped when ice storms had cut off their electrical service for weeks at a time. We remembered that some of our Canadian students had been without it for months. Modern life is extremely energy dependent, and the storms that are wreaking havoc with energy services in much of the country demonstrate how difficult life can be without energy.

There are many voices warning all of us that the days of cheap, abundant energy supplies are over, and we will have to adjust to the new energy situation. High energy prices, peak oil and natural gas, global warming, loss of forests, the collapse of fisheries and the loss of species diversity are clear signals we are living beyond the earth’s ability to support us in the manner we have come to expect.

Conservation and efficiency are the quickest, least costly and most effective actions individuals, businesses and communities can take today. We took such actions years ago and continue to benefit from them. It was only after those actions that we installed our solar electric and wind-generating systems.

Although the initial costs of solar hot water and solar electric systems and wind generators are high, state rebates and federal tax credits help cut those outlays.

To facilitate conservation and efficiency, we have done what we call walk-through energy audits for churches and nonprofit groups. The audits are not technically sophisticated as are those done by an energy auditor. We have offered the service without charge, but do appreciate contributions to the Illinois Renewable Energy Association so we can continue our work.

We are available to speak to groups about a range of topics related to efficiency, renewable energy and the environmental impacts of our heavy reliance on fossil fuels. We provide introductory presentations and short workshops about small-scale solar energy and wind systems to a variety of audiences.

We also offer full-day workshops about small solar and wind systems in May and September at our farm. In fall, we coordinate the Rockord-Dixon area tour of solar homes. Students from upper elementary through college classes have visited our site as well.

Our big event is the annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair at the Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Aug. 11-12. It is an excellent opportunity to learn more about efficiency, renewable energy and sustainable lifestyles. Participants can attend workshops, interact with installers of solar and wind systems and network with Illinois leaders in the field.

All of these services are provided by the nonprofit Illinois Renewable Energy Association. Contributions, memberships and volunteers are always welcome. Many people have commented about how fortunate the community is to have this forward-looking service available to them. We need your support to continue this timely and highly significant assistance for Illinois citizens.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180 acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.

From the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2007, issue

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