Renewable Energy: IRRG not just about wind

Renewable Energy: IRRG not just about wind

By By Dan Slattery

The Illinois Renewable Resources Group’s energy conference held at Cliffbreakers July 11th was a groundbreaking event for Rockford.

The event did receive attention from virtually all of the mainstream media, albeit limited in scope. Their main focus was the existing and proposed wind farms in downstate counties along with the $2.75 million grant issued by DCCA (Illinois Department of Commerce and Community Affairs) to promote these plans.

But that was hardly the entire content of this program. Additional topics included workshops on solar electric generation by Mark Burger of Spire Solar/Chicago, Mark Bronez of Powerlight, Terrence Parker of Uni-Solar Corp., Mary O’Toole from ComEd, Kevin Lynch from IBEW Local 134 on alternative energy education for electricians, and a DCCA photovoltaic system grantee, David Kennell.

Also in the Track One program regarding solar-thermal (passive solar) were Bill Guiney from Duke Solar, Brandon Leavitt of Solar Service and a solar-thermal DCCA grantee by the name of William Stanczck.

And wind energy was covered by Stephen Noe (Illinois Wind Energy), Brian Lammers (Navitas) and Jean-Charles Pollain (Turbodynamx).

Track Two of this event took place simultaneously, with nine different speakers and workshops involving biomass and biogas (dairy and swine), as well as three different speakers on hydroelectric power.

The morning keynote speaker was Gary Nowakowski from the U.S. Department of Energy on their role with renewables. Jack Barnette from the U.S. EPA gave the luncheon keynote address, and Paul Sterner, chairman of the IRRG, gave closing remarks at the evening reception.

There were also displays and exhibits by many of the attending companies. Rex Buhrmester, liaison for the DCCA, gave an overview of their Illinois Renewable Energy Resources program.

Much attention was given to the “payback” factors involved with making alternative energy investments. We were supplied with a great deal of facts and figures. Suffice it to say, the paybacks are better and faster than some people might think.

All in all, it was a highly informative event in many different ways.

Despite this, I am left with three disturbingly unanswered questions:

(1) A partnership exists among Spire Solar Chicago, ComEd and the IBEW that has done eight or nine PV installations on Chicago schools. With our School Dist. #205 in perpetual economic turmoil, why isn’t this being done here? Especially with grants available, the savings would be obvious.

(2) The Rock River and Fordam Dam are an obvious, in-your-face example of the potential for free, renewable, non-polluting hydroelectric power. Why isn’t it being utilized?

(3) Why aren’t our leaders in this community being proactive on these issues instead of reactive?

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

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