Energy efficiency in Germany and the U.S.

July 18, 2012

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

We recently discussed the status of German renewable energy with our guests from Bavaria. As political support for renewable energy is decreasing with the pressure to cut government expenditures, a number of small villages in Germany have begun installing renewable energy systems to meet their energy needs while ignoring the uncertainties of government subsidies.

Effelter, Bavaria, a village of 200 people, turned to renewable energy sources. From their forested areas they chipped forest thinnings, dried, stored and burned them in small district heating plants, and distributed the heat to homes and buildings in the community.

They cut hay from pasture areas and placed it in biodigesters to produce gas that is burned to generate electricity. They also fitted abandoned small hydro plants with new, efficient generators. The village produces a surplus of energy and sends the surplus to utilities. Although required by law to purchase the energy, utilities are delaying payments as demand for electricity decreases and renewable production increases.

Homes also have south-facing roofs covered with solar electric panels and battery storage systems in their basements.

Villagers see their renewable energy systems as part of their retirement plans, as the investments reduce energy costs to them.

The big utilities have made it difficult for villagers to achieve energy independence, as they do not want to lose customers and the profits they make on energy sales. The utilities pressure political leaders to erect barriers to energy independence, which local villagers persist in overcoming.

Several presentations at this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 11-12 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.) will focus on efficiency. Cari Korstad will set the stage by explaining the wind and solar installation “Articles in the National Electrical Code.” Audience members may bring their code books, which she will help them understand.

Keynoter Paul Fenn will provide guidance about establishing a community choice aggregation program that includes efficiency measures and local green distribution generation facilities (see last week’s column, “Community choice aggregation as envisioned by Paul Fenn”).

Jim Lamb, who was with the gas utility industry for 30 years managing conservation programs and energy distribution systems and currently performs energy conservation consultations, will help people evaluate their energy profile for the best solar system, conservation measures and lifestyle.

Dan Alway will discuss energy-efficient appliances that can save money for those who live on the grid and those who live in homes off the grid.

McCanse Builders will do Q&A sessions about prioritizing remodeling dollars with an eye toward energy conservation.

Dave Kozlowski will present a primer about cutting energy losses in the home through reducing air leakage, safely insulating building envelopes and preventing moisture problems.

Lou Host-Jablonski will present photos, videos and samples of natural, low-cost, high efficiency, innovative building.

Doug McWain will describe the advantages of energy saving earth-sheltered housing.

Len Salvig, who performs home energy audits, will explain energy and cash-saving air source heat pumps, which have improved dramatically.

Those interested in home energy efficiency will find many solutions to their concerns at the fair Aug. 11-12 at Ogle County Fairgrounds. Major sponsors are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Clean Line Energy Partners and the Kickapoo Nature Conservancy.

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. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the July 18-24, 2012, issue

One Comment

  1. James C. Davis

    August 7, 2012 at 6:14 am

    “Effelter, Bavaria, a village of 200 people, turned to renewable energy sources. From their forested areas they chipped forest thinnings, dried, stored and burned them in small district heating plants, and distributed the heat to homes and buildings in the community”

    Doesn’t this add to global warming.

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