Leadership–essential for a sustainable economy

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

Last week, we had the honor of inducting Frank Schier, editor and publisher of The Rock River Times, and Scott Christiansen (R), Winnebago County Board chairman—with their respective organizations—into the Environmental Hall of Fame for their efforts in land-use planning, protecting the Rock River and renewable energy.

Their leadership, along with that of others in the area, is setting the stage for a major move toward more efficient use of energy and increased use of renewable energy sources, while protecting open space, natural areas, and air and water quality.

Such efforts are producing additional job opportunities as we begin the long, hard struggle to redirect our economic system into patterns that are far less environmentally damaging.

Another piece of good news is the U.S. Senate committee on energy’s approval of a federal effort to install 10 million solar systems on American homes and businesses over the next 10 years. If the legislation becomes law, it would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs, while reducing greenhouse gases.

New educational programs are essential to provide workers with technical skills to design and install systems. It is also essential to develop public understanding and support for the necessary changes involved in building a more sustainable society.

The Ninth Annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 7-8 at Ogle County Fairgrounds near Oregon, Ill.) is an excellent opportunity to talk to renewable energy professionals to learn how systems function, what skills are essential for a successful installation and benefits of having such systems in a home or business.

The annual energy fair is our effort to inform the public of available technologies to achieve a greener world as well as introduce them to other ways of thinking about and living more sustainable lives. Some of the speakers will discuss training programs and job opportunities in renewable energy.

Jason La Fleur, president of Eco-Achievers, will address career paths in renewable energy, energy auditing and green building. Certification and accreditation will be discussed.

Brianna Pinson of ETA International will explain ETA’s alternative energy certifications, including photovoltaic installers, small and large wind installers/technicians and alternative energy hybrid system integrators.

Harry Ode, IBEW No. 134, Chicago, will present a two-hour workshop about the NEC requirements for safe pv installations with an emphasis on Article 690.

Another presentation about electrical safety with renewable energy systems is offered by Brian Green, electrician from Warren, who has installed pv systems in this area.

Inverters are an essential component in solar electric systems. Steve Bell, inverter technician with Sunwize in Stelle, will lead a discussion about inverters commonly used with photovoltaic modules. The characteristics and limitations of both pure grid-tie (no batteries) and battery-based inverters will be discussed.

Steve Fleeman, Rock Valley College professor, will discuss micro-inverters and how to maximize the energy output of solar modules and build in easy system expansion. He will also discuss how to place individual system performance on the Internet. Fair participants can learn about Rock Valley College’s renewable energy training program at their exhibit.

Aur Beck, IREA Board member, will teach those interested in how to live off-grid. He promises to make the presentation entertaining and realistic. He also teaches an advanced solar electric training class for IREA, which will be offered Sept. 13-16 in Oregon, Ill. Be sure to stop by and talk about it and other fall classes while at the fair.

For those who want to enhance electrical energy security, a session to attend is focused on batteries by Jeff Green, IREA Board member. His presentation addresses selecting the right batteries for a system, getting the most use from them and tips about battery maintenance to assure their long life.

Expect last-minute changes in the workshop schedule. Changes are posted on the IREA website as soon as we receive them.

The fair is made possible by contributions from The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, The Rock River Times, Clean Line Energy Partners, ComEd, our presenters, booth exhibitors and volunteers. We have put together another great program, and only need another great crowd. The event goes on, rain or shine.

From the July 28-Aug 3, 2010 issue

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