Energy fairs are also a social event

June 30, 2010

Potential site of the Aegir 500 MW offshore wind farm. Image provided

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl
President and Vice President
Illinois Renewable Energy Association

We attend a variety of energy events targeted at the general public each year to keep up with the field.

These events are also social happenings. It is always good to see old friends, which helps to provide a sense of continuity to our lives. Some absent, whose lives have taken another turn, are busy with new jobs or interests. Some have died, leaving a void in our lives, as did Rael Bassan, a former Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) board member who was with us since the beginning of the organization. He was a physicist who left the field to apply his mind and skills to further sustainable energy and ecological understandings.

We had a booth at the recent Midwest Renewable Energy Fair promoting our organization and our upcoming Illinois Renewable Energy & Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Aug. 7-8, at the Ogle County Fairgrounds. We showed a small home concept to those willing to listen, and asked for their impressions and whether they would be interested in participating in its construction.

Many ideas are exchanged between individuals and small groups. Installers are eager to tell about their new projects. One relished the opportunity to install a solar hot water system, which was included in the original building plans, lowering the cost and making for a much easier installation.

IREA board member Jim Lamb handled a question from a fairgoer concerned about how to heat a room addition. It led to a discussion of the tradeoffs involved in adding insulation to the existing house, installing a new, energy-efficient furnace and installing a solar hot water heating system.

Richard Orawiec, a solar dealer who has had a booth at our event since its inception, expressed disappointment that the Mason County Board of Commissioners in Western Michigan rejected the Aegir 100 turbine wind farm targeted for placement 3 miles into Lake Michigan. A coalition of property owners and real estate and tourism interests persuaded the county board that the wind farm’s presence would adversely affect property values and tourism, and would be detrimental to the long-term economic well-being of the county.

Three other boards in Oceana, Muskegon and Ottawa counties have yet to make a determination on the $4 billion plan, which includes manufacturing the generators in Michigan with 3,000 to 6,000 jobs being promised. The generators would have a capacity of 10 megawatts, about five times the 1.5 to 2 megawatts of generators now in use.

This is just a small sample of the many conversations we had while at the fair. Come to the Illinois energy fair to discuss some of your own questions with the many dealers present. As a social event, it is an opportunity to meet old friends, make some new ones and engage in stimulating discussions.

This excellent opportunity to learn more about efficiency and renewable energy from area experts is made possible by the generosity of our volunteers, speakers and vendors. Major sponsors for the event include the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and The Rock River Times.

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 sonia@essex1.com.

From the June 30-July 6, 2010 issue

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