IEPA, Freedom Field and student power

July 7, 2010

Overview of Freedom Field. Photo by Dr. Sonia Vogl

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

The ongoing oil disaster in the Gulf is a grim reminder of the inter-relationship between energy consumption and pollution. It reminds us of the need for effective government regulation, as the consequences of such disasters go far beyond existing market relationships.

It is also an indication of peak oil, the concept that future supplies will become increasingly scarce, more costly and likely to result in increased levels of environmental damage.

As oil supplies tighten and the environmental costs are more fully incorporated into the price of energy, Jeff Rubin believes the changes could include some pleasant surprises. Some long-lost manufacturing capacity could return to the local level. We could see a re-engineering of our economy to a more livable and sustainable system than that which now is dominant. Increased shipping costs could trump low-cost labor.

Wind generator. Photo by Dr. Sonia Vogl

A report by Lloyd’s of London and Chatham House to the British business sector addressed the need to adjust to the uncertainty of the world’s energy future. Volatility in the cost and availability of fossil fuels presents business interests with both risks and opportunities. Investing in demand reduction and renewable energy while having high upfront costs will provide lower energy costs in the future. The recent request by Commonwealth Edison for a 7 percent increase in rates to pay for an upgrading of the electrical grid will have less impact on those who have invested in efficiency and renewable energy.

Other authors are far less sanguine about the impacts of peak oil on the economy, foreseeing a very difficult future. Some individuals are already reorganizing their lives to be able to live well in an energy-limited world.

The annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair includes a range of responses to the potential impacts of peak oil. College students will be at the fair to exhibit their efforts at re-engineering our energy future. Students from Rock Valley College will explain their work in renewable energy. They are also involved in the Winnebago County Freedom Field Project, which is a model for alternative energy. A newly-installed photovoltaic system is now in operation, along with a solar-thermal heating and cooling system and meteorological monitoring station.

Students from Iowa State University will be there, along with the solar electric car they built and drove in the solar race.

Students from Elgin Community College will bring an 18-wheeled “Green Machine,” powered by biodiesel fuel and equipped with solar systems, and a small wind generator. They will discuss the solar hot air systems they have designed and installed.

Solar panels. Photo by Dr. Sonia Vogl

The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency is a new sponsor of the Energy Fair. It has regulatory responsibilities for air, land and water issues. Its Bureau of Air works to limit air pollution in various ways, including reducing mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, providing rebates to support alternate fuel vehicles, and assisting schools and school districts in reducing emissions from diesel-powered school buses. It administers the Illinois Cool Cities program and the Illinois Advisory Group on Climate Change. The agency director is former Rockford Mayor Doug Scott.

Major sponsors of the Aug. 7-8 fair include The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, The Rock River Times and ComEd.

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 July 7-13, 2010 issue

Bergey wind generator. Photo by Dr. Sonia Vogl

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