Renewable Energy—A fair highlight

Several people have commented that not as many renewable energy presentations are at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair as in previous years. We haven’t counted, but some of our established presenters on renewable energy had last-minute conflicts, preferred to refocus on global warming or decided to only table booths and not make presentations.

Renewable energy remains a strong component in the fair. This column will describe presentations and booths.

Friday, Aug. 10, from 1-4 p.m., a special session on “Renewable Energy Business Opportunities” will be presented at the fairgrounds in Tent F. Mark Burger, principal of Kestrel Development, LLC, will present an overview of the photovoltaic industry’s growth on the international, national and state levels. He will comment about the silicon supply and new commercialized applications. Jesse Kharbanda, Environmental Law and Policy Center Energy Policy advocate who studied development economics as a Rhodes Scholar and has worked in management development in private industry, will discuss Wind Entrepreneurship. James J. Greenberger, chairman, renewable Energy Practices Group of Sachem & Weaver who has a keen interest in emerging technologies, will highlight the perspective of venture investors. He represents developers, investors and lenders in a wide range of renewable energy projects. Preregistration is required. This event has a separate $50 participant fee.

Other renewable energy topics will be included as part of the Fair with the regular admission charge covering all. Brandon Leavitt of Solar Service will discuss practical solar applications for homes and businesses in his Saturday and Sunday presentations “Go Green—Save Green.” His firm is the largest full-service solar thermal company in the United States.

Michael Vickerman, executive director of Renew Wisconsin, will provide a sophisticated approach to determining the cost effectiveness of investing in a solar and small wind energy system. This Sunday session will provide participants with a means to establish the real return from “owning” your own non depleting energy source. Vickerman’s writings on energy issues are published periodically in The Rock River Times.

HOMER, a computer model developed by NREL, ranks renewable energy technologies by their life cycle costs. Paul Gilman’s Sunday presentation will introduce participants to its use, which involves a free download.

James Lamb of Middle Fork Engineering will provide an approach to minimizing energy consumption and evaluating how to make effective use of photovoltaic/water/passive solar systems. Lamb practices what he preaches in his own home. His Sunday presentation has a practical focus.

John Root has graciously agreed to make several presentations. He is well prepared to handle a range of topics as the Energy Advisor for Muscatine Power and Light and an experienced small wind and solar energy systems installer. His focus on energy efficiency provides an excellent perspective from which to consider these installations. His small wind sessions will be presented on Saturday and Sunday. His introduction to PV will be on Sunday.

“Solar on the Schools” is a new topic this year. Grants from The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation have enabled Illinois schools to have 1-kilowatt systems installed on their buildings. Leonard Salvig of Hybrid Renewables will be joined by Trey Fiske of Rockford Lutheran High School and Lee Schreiner of Guilford High School in discussing their installations and educational programs on Saturday.

While many renewable energy systems are connected to the existing electrical grid, some owners also use energy storage systems. The most common is a battery system. On Saturday, Jeff Green of G&G Solar will present ideas on choosing the right battery, getting the most use from one and tips on battery maintenance. Visitors might seek out Jeff at the Fair to discuss his experience installing a small pv system in Jamaica at a free medical clinic for the IREA.

Of course, it’s important to make safe use of electricity produced by a renewable energy system. Brian Green returns to advise on building codes, lightning grounding and protection, wiring and ground fault circuit interrupters.

Booths focused on renewable energy systems include Advanced Energy Solutions, Advanced Geothermal, BTF Solar Ltd, G&G Solar Electric, GSG Wind & Sustainable Energy Education, Habi-Tek, Heavenly Winds, Hybrid Renewables, Inc., Inovateus, Solar Service, Sun Ovens, and The Root Cellar. Be sure to stop by the booths for expert advice.

ComEd’s Energy Trailer with PV panels will be at the Fairgrounds Saturday only. Be sure to visit this “must-see” exhibit.

Also check out the Fairgrounds’ newly-installed 1kw pv system. Contributions from The National Environmental Educational Organization, Solectria, the IREA and the Ogle County Fairgrounds Board and the work of Dave and Jared Merrill and volunteers Tony Gerace, Bob Piros, Mark Thoele and Bob Vogl made it all possible.

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 July 25-31, 2007, issue

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