Visit the 15th Annual IREA Fair

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

The IREA will host the 15th Annual Illinois Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair on August 20 and 21. We appreciate the support we have received during that time, especially funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation which supports renewable energy, efficiency and natural areas preservation in the state. Their renewable energy projects include numerous school installations which familiarize students with the technologies and their performance characteristics and allow them to share data with other students from participating schools via internet.

The Foundation also supports the acquisition and restoration of Illinois natural areas. While numerous projects have been funded, we are most closely involved with the efforts at Sand Ridge Prairie and Nachusa Grasslands. The many assisted organizations appreciate the significant impacts the Foundation continues to make.

Another organization that has made a significant impact on state policy protecting natural areas and stimulating renewable energy practices is the Environmental Law and Policy Center. Beginning in Illinois, expanding throughout the Midwest and now with an office in Washington, D.C., they have contributed to the creation of the legal framework which supports efforts to protect the environment and stimulate the installation of renewable energy sources.

The keynote speaker for this year’s Fair is Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Center, who will provide an overview of important policy directions on Federal and state levels.

Two speakers from the Rocky Mountain Institute, Kevin Brehm and Margaret McCall, will make major presentations on Sunday. We have followed the Institute’s work for many years and visited their original office in Snowmass, Colorado, when Amory Lovins and his former partner, Hunter, were launching their careers. For years we had frequent interactions with Lovins at national and international energy conferences at which time he focused on how energy efficiency could offset the need to build the many nuclear plants planned by the power industry. Later, he focused on convincing major auto companies to make far more fuel efficient cars. Eventually some of his ideas were incorporated into newly developed hybrid cars. We are pleased to have representatives of the Institute at this year’s fair.

A few years ago IREA funded a model off-grid greenhouse, which was installed on our property with the intent of relocating it at some later date. We provided the overall concepts for the project. The building was heavily insulated and was powered by a PV system with battery backup to run LED lights intended to grow lettuce, radishes, carrots and other vegetables. The LED lights were newly developed by Victor Zaderej, an engineer with interests in energy efficiency and solar energy. Dave Merrill of Sun Air installed the PV system.

We found a new home for it to be used by numerous students. The building will be upgraded to improve its performance based on what was learned from our use of it. Early last Saturday morning, it was moved by current members and alumni of the Future Farmers of America to its new home at Oregon High School.

We will be working closely with Josh Nelson, OHS Ag teacher, on a variety of student experiments using the facility. He has impressive plans for using it to educate not only Oregon students from several disciplines and levels, but those from other nearby districts as well. Nelson and his students will explain the facility and its use at this year’s Fair. We wish them well.

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