Illinois Renewable Energy Association remains active

A hands-on PV class taught by Dave Merrill. Photo provided

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) has had another active year. As a non-profit organization, it provides services and programs for the public. Any charges for admissions or workshops are used as fund-raisers to help provide these programs.

Since 2002, IREA hosted regional tours of solar homes in cooperation with the American Solar Energy Society. Those visiting homes on the free tour can see renewable and efficient installations firsthand, and can talk with owners about what it is like to live with them, a good introduction for those who are not yet sure that they want to invest as well as those ready to take the plunge.

One day, renewable energy and efficiency workshops are offered at nominal cost for members of the interested public. During the past year, these included photovoltaic workshops, which presented basics of PV, components of a system and how it can be used, and a basic wind class covering the same type of information. Weather-permitting, the wind class also takes down a tower with 1 kW generator, disassembles and reassembles it. For those interested in more advanced knowledge, IREA has offered hands-on PV classes in which a system is laid on the ground, completely assembled and connected to the home circuit to demonstrate its capability. Home energy audit and energy-efficient home workshops were also offered. New membership for non-members is included.

Classes were offered and continue to be offered at area community colleges, including Rock Valley, Illinois Valley and Blackhawk. It is expected that more classes will be offered at more colleges in the future.

IREA is one of the sponsors of the highly-successful annual Winnebago County Green Business Awards program initiated by Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times.

The organization’s most ambitious undertaking is the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, held the second weekend in August at the Ogle County Fairgrounds near Oregon, Ill. More than 100 exhibits, 60 workshops, children’s activities, field trips and entertainment are featured. Those who follow this column are aware of the breadth of the fair’s offerings.

IREA also was represented at Earth Day and related events in Crystal Lake, Chicago, Galena, Ottawa, Rockford, Rock Island, Carbondale and Will County, and exhibited at the Midwest Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair.

In addition to the organization’s activities, the officers were interviewed by Illinois AgriNews for a feature article, spoke to civic groups and agencies, participated in the Passive House U.S. Conference, were presenters at an employee green education open house for Exelon’s Byron Nuclear Power Plant, and continue to serve on the Executive Committee of Illinois State University’s Wind Working Group and the Executive Board of Freedom Field. They also continue to operate their home PV and wind installations to use with IREA classes, informally consult with families on home efficiency installations, consult with individuals and groups on prairie planting (an aspect of sustainable lifestyles), are consultants on transforming a local B&B into a “green” hotel, and continue to write a weekly column about renewable energy for this newspaper.

Take advantage of the many offerings of the IREA, a 501(c)(3) organization. The IREA Web site is

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. 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 active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail

From the Jan. 20-26, 2010 issue

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