Trying to save the world, part 2

The question, “You don’t actually think you can save the world? Do you?”, continues from last week’s attempt to relate the efforts of everyone involved in the Fifth Anniversary Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Aug. 11-13, at Ogle County Fairgrounds.

The short tour we took of just a few of the 75 vendors and exhibitors on the fairgrounds left out what attendees could intersperce with their wanderings for shopping and education—the workshops and lectures.

The people who gave these interactive talks, 63 of them, really want to change the world for the better, and they presented their methods and/or knowledge to help achieve that goal. The challenge for fairgoers was trying to attend all these sessions in one or two days, plus sampling the wares of the exhibitors’ booths.

As all these booths were getting set up Aug. 11, the fair held its first Special Friday Program, featuring Mark Burger, executive director of Illinois solar Energy Association and president of Kestrel Development Company; Jim Greenberger, chairman, Renewable Energy Practice Group; and Bruce and Joyce Papiech, owners, FPC Service, Inc., GSG Wind Energy.

To relate the entirety of this three-hour session in this limited space is impossible; however, here are some highlights.

“Getting Hot Out There—Market and Business Overview on Solar Energy, “was the title of Burger’s fine overview of this field. He said alternative energy is “not a cottage industry run by hippies anymore.” He cited that $34 billion was produced by the industry of wind power, solar photovoltaics, solar thermal electric and solar thermal alone.

Perhaps the most interesting point he made was that the average installations for solar photovoltaic is $15,000 and the same for solar thermal is $4,000. Both have up to 50 percent rebate programs with the state (my comment—if the governor doesn’t raid the fund). So, solar thermal is more affordable. Heat that One-Watt Home, or provide hot water for the home or swimming pool. Burger called solar thermal the “ugly duckling” of renewable energy.

Greenberger did an excellent job of explaining the entire process and extent of venue capital investment in renewable energy. His figures on the growth of investment in the solar, wind and particularly the biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel) were revealing. For all of these investments, growth is projected from an average of $12 billion in 2005 to $50 billion in 2015.

He addressed flexible thin film solar, corn, cellulose, offshore wave energy conversion of the ocean, lithium batteries, hydrogen technologies, stock values, investment percentages, dilution and recovery for the industry and various companies. He also provided a sample “Annotated Term Sheet for First Round Venture Capital Investment.

Refusing offers from venture capitalists, the Papiechs are an amazing couple that started with a few solar panels. They now run a consulting firm and develop wind farms.

With projects in Lee and LaSalle counties, they noted the larger investors are buying up the orders for wind turbines ahead of time to 2009, effectively shutting out smaller investors who can’t sit on their money for that long. Noting different types of wind turbines exist for low and high wind conditions, they also pointed out any wind study company must be accepted by a particular bank, most of which require computer modeling.

All in all, the three-hour session was an eye-opener to the money side of most facets of alternative energy.

Money is nothing without intellect and beauty, so let’s take a look at some finds at the fair that are sure to please the aesthetic aided by reading. Yes, I mean books. The following were either garnered out of Lin Vogl’s massive effort at collecting a new universe of literature for distribution; Stelle, Illinois’ Bill Wilson and Sustainable Life Coaching and Mentoring; or Dixon’s Larry Dunphy and Books on First:

Backwoods Solar Electric Systems 2006 catalog by Backwoods Solar, which is hard to differentiate from Backwoods Home magazine. Both have every product imaginable, and some you’ve never thought about. Great for do-it-yourselfers.

Guide to Wild Foods and Useful Plants by Christopher Nyerges. Want a snack out of the ground in the woods, or perhaps you want to grow your own medicinal herbs? This book is for you.

Month-By-Month Gardening in Illinois by James A. Fizzell. Want to plant something in December? Take a look at this book for all seasons’ planting, maintenance and pest control (no, I’m not listed). Great glossary, too.

Gaia’s Garden—A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. A great how to about how to produce your own mini-world of water, plants and animals. Design, composting, wetlands, food and herb crops and critters are all covered.

2006 Co-op America’s National Green Pages by Co-op America. If you’re looking for organic anything; Fair Trade products; Green office supplies, resources, appliances, furniture; sweatshop-free clothing or socially responsible financial planners, this is the encyclopedia.

Good Old Boat Magazine by Founder/Editor Karen Larson. Do you love a hole in the water to pour money into? Set sail for this mag, and batten down your wallet and watch. The selection and articles are consuming in their quality.

2005-2006 Lehman’s Non-electric Catalog by Galen Lehman, president. Can you say “Christmas presents?” Reading this will harken you back to the old day’s when the first Sears catalog came out, and many of those very items are probably in this great read. Yes, it’s fun to just read! A must by the commode, or for any fan of functioning, new antiques.

Finally, knucklehead, being me, misspelled the following names in last week’s article: Mary Jane Shoemaker, volunteer extraordinaire; Vic Zaderej, builder of the One-Watt Home southeast of Oregon; and John Barnhart, grower of organic produce at Barnhart’s Stone Corner Farm Market. Sorry, folks. More mistakes next week.

From the Aug. 23-29, 2006, issue

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