Renewable energy and efficiency as good investments

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

Even those who do not accept scientific consensus on the risks associated with climate change can secure the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy. Saving energy is less costly than buying it, so reducing carbon emissions is a good investment. It is also good for the economy. It provides an opportunity for those with a social conscience to feel good about doing the right thing for themselves, the community, the environment and future generations.

Investing in a renewable energy system buys a measure of energy security, since the cost of that energy will remain the same over the lifetime of the system, as opposed to increasing costs of utility electricity. The same benefits will accrue to communities that make similar investments.

These ideas are among the benefits of participating in this year’s Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair (Aug. 17-18 at Ogle County Fairgrounds in Oregon, Ill.). Others include the information gained and the motivation that comes from interacting with knowledgeable and experienced people who have already invested in efficiency and renewable energy or who help others make such investments.

It is always fun for those who have a system to interact with others who also have systems and share their experiences. There are new presentations and presenters, so participants gain some additional understandings and perspectives. Of course, it is an opportunity to touch base with friends from previous events.

It is a good time to invest in efficiency and renewable energy, as federal tax credits are still in place, the state rebate program continues despite state budget woes, and renewable energy credits can be sold to offset some of the costs of a system.

Following is a quick overview of some of the workshops on energy efficiency and renewable energy in this year’s fair:

• “PV installations for remote clinics” (Saturday, 9:30 a.m.) — Solving communications problems with people who speak another language.

• “PV systems — today and tomorrow” (Saturday, 10:45 a.m.) — History, need and new alternatives.

• “Small wind” (Saturday, 1:15 p.m.) — Performance and benefits of small wind; information sources.

• “Solar installations in remote areas” (Saturday, 2:30 p.m.) — Bringing water and electricity to small, overlooked clinics.

• “Energy-efficient appliances on and off grid” (Saturday, 3:45 p.m.) — Review of household appliances and how to live off grid.

• “Batteries: Care and long life” (Sunday, 10:30 p.m.) — Choosing the right battery; how to get the most use from one; tips on maintenance.

• “The path to independence from the grid by using alternative energy” (Sunday, 11:45 a.m.) — Firsthand information about important design concepts when integrating alternative energy into electrical power needs and their effects on our environment.

• “Solar PV system monitoring” (Sunday, 2:15 p.m.) — Determining whether a system is performing well, and if not, why not?

• “Effective payback from solar energy, conservation and sustainability” (Sunday, 2:15 p.m.) — How to use solar energy, conservation and sustainability for maximum payback with minimal impact.

A fairgoer interested in energy efficiency and renewable energy can attend two full days of sessions about these topics. In addition, programs about building efficiency will also be presented.

Major sponsors of the fair are The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Northern Public Radio, Clean Line Energy Partners and the Kickapoo Foundation.

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

From the July 24-30, 2013, issue

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