Get away, get some new power at the energy fair in Custer, Wis.

Get away, get some new power at the energy fair in Custer, Wis.


By Dan Slattery

Editor’s note: Dan Slattery is a member of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) but does not represent the MREA in any official capacity whatsoever. His viewpoints are his own.

The Midwest Renewable Energy Association is having its 13th annual “Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair” on June 21st, 22nd and 23rd at their headquarters, the Renew the Earth Institute in Custer, Wis. this year, about seven miles east of Stevens Point, Wis.

Their theme this year is “How Many People Does It Take to Change the World?” The answer is “Just One. You.” (I like the way these people think.) Take their ultimate challenge—install and run a renewable energy system to power your entire home and keep approximately 17,520 lbs. of CO2, 87 lbs. of nitrogen oxide, and 75 lbs. of sulphur dioxide from entering our atmosphere every year (assuming your electricity comes from a coal-fired utility). And let’s not forget that beautiful little spot in the desert a few hundred miles from here where spent nuclear fuel will be stored that no one can get near to for a few thousand years. Interesting? It is to me.

You can tour the Renew the Earth Institute while you’re there and see the RE (Renewable Energy) systems that run their institution—both on and off grid PV (photovoltaic) systems, a wind system, solar hydronic in-floor radiant heating system, and solar hot water system, clerestory daylighting, and alternative construction displays. They also ask attendees to help make it a “garbage-free” event by bringing your own plates, cups, mugs and silverware. Their local friends will be supplying food of all sorts, and the MREA will supply dishwashing stations. Please don’t bring non-recyclable food or drink containers. (Pssst… Beer garden opens at 4 p.m. daily.) They also still need volunteers to help if you’re interested. Have some “peace coffee” while you’re there. (Don’t ask; I have no idea.)

A general MREA membership meeting will be held Sunday from 9:30-10:30 a.m. Here you can learn more about the MREA, upcoming projects, meet staff members and board directors. And provide feedback. On Saturday, at 1:30 p.m., there’s an award ceremony for individuals and organizations that go beyond the call of duty (cross your fingers) to promote RE and protect the environment. There’s also a panel discussion for candidates running for governor in Wisconsin in 2002 regarding the state’s energy future.

Jammed up? Need a massage? Visit the massage tent. Friday at 6:15 p.m., see the Native American drumming and a sun dance provided, in part by representatives of the Oneida Environmental Resource Board. Saturday, ladies can attend a series of women’s workshops with the intended outcome being the formation of a network called WIRE (Women In Renewable Energy).

Keynote speakers include nationally recognized Sarah James on Friday, June 21 at 6:15 p.m. She is the author of We Are the Ones Who Have Everything to Lose. James is a Neets’aii Gwich’in Indian from Arctic Village, Alaska, the northernmost Indian tribe in North America. She has performed a ceremony at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine in New York City and the First Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and has provided testimony to both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives.

Also speaking is polar explorer, educator, photographer and writer Will Steger at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 22. Steger has recently been collecting information on the effects of global climate change on polar regions. He has lived “off the grid” for 35 years and will discuss his lifestyle and adventures, and how global climate change is affecting the earth’s polar regions.

There will be music and entertainment for all children and adults.

The MREA also offers year-round workshops at different locations throughout the Midwest including wind and PV systems, solar water heating, cordwood masonry, alternative construction, in-floor radiant solar heating, straw bale construction, masonry heaters, window quilts, and RETScreen software that predicts RE system performance characteristics for homes and businesses.

Also featured will be a silent auction for equipment and merchandise each day of the fair. Proceeds will go to improve the MREA’s educational offerings. Contact a staff member for details. You or your representative must be present to win. All items must be off fairgrounds by 9 a.m., Monday, June 24. You must provide transportation. Guided bus tours of RE homes in the areas will be available, although purchasing tickets in advance is highly recommended, since the tours usually sell out in advance. Remaining seats are on first-come, first-served basis. Tickets are $10 with departures at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. each day. General admission to the fair itself is as follows:

1 day All 3 days

Adults $8.00 $20.00

Youths 13-17 $5.00 $12.00

Children 12 & Under Free Free

MREA members Free Free


Also showcased will be alternative-fueled vehicles involving bio-diesel fuels, hydrogen fuel cells, solar-powered and gas/electric hybrids.

Many NEW workshops have been introduced such as “Designing for Building Integrated PV & Wind,” “Amorphous Silicon Modules and Crystalline Modules—Similarities & Differences,” “Data-Logging RE Systems,” “RE—What Really Matters,” “Hybrid Vehicles: From Future Truck to 20-Year Outlook on Production Vehicles,” “Global Climate Change—What’s Going On?” and many, many more.

Accommodations are varied and widespread, from camping to hotels/motels, shuttle services, bed & breakfasts, dog kennels, car-pool info on the MREA website, taxis from Appleton Airport, car rentals and much more. For more information, contact the Midwest Renewable Energy Association at 7558 Deer Road, Custer, WI 54423. E-mail is; website is or fax them at 1-715-592-6596. The phone number is 1-715-592-6595, but I do NOT RECOMMEND PHONE CALLS AT THIS TIME, as they are extremely busy right now.

Or you can contact the Stevens Point Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-800-236-4636 or, or the Waupaca Area Chamber of Commerce at 1-800-236-2222, or

Camping at the Renew the Earth Institute is now SOLD OUT, but camping may still be available at the Portage County Fairgrounds (free shuttle from Central Wisconsin Airport). Fair hours are Friday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m.; Saturday, 9 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Most of the information in this article came form the MREA’s newsletter “Renews” program guide for the fair. If you go, TELL THEM YOU’RE FROM ROCKFORD! And that The Rock River Times sent you! See you there!

Dan Slattery is a member of the following organizations: the American Solar Energy Society, the Illinois Solar Energy Society, the Illinois Coalition Against Unfair Utilities and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

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