The importance of increasing solar power

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

Exciting progress is being made in the growth of renewable energy and solar PV. Managers of more public buildings are making the decision to install it on their roofs, ideal sites for it. But many unused opportunities still exist.

For years the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation has stimulated such practices within the state. The organization has assisted in funding installations on schools, environmental centers, courthouses, sewage treatment plants and other public facilities to demonstrate the effectiveness of these advanced technologies.

After we dropped off this year’s Fair booklets for distribution through the Rock River Times’ network we returned home via South Main St. We were impressed by the improvements which will provide visitors with easy access to the downtown from the airport and the Route 20 bypass. The new Sportscore on the east side of the river and the prospects for a new hotel on the west side provide exciting new destinations. The upgraded route into downtown is a long-awaited but welcomed improvement.

It would be good to see some renewable energy installations along the route to offset the expected increase in visitors and transportation emissions. Solar canopies and rooftop installations could exemplify how solar can be integrated into the urban setting.

On our travels to deliver fair booklets to key sites, we noticed the widespread trend toward new medical facilities being built as adjuncts to major area hospitals. Existing facilities have available roof space and parking lots which could accommodate solar installations. The new outlier facilities could accommodate similar installations accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources.

Solar panels on medical facilities would contribute to cleaner air and help avoid some of the worst impacts of climate change. Some medical institutions are going beyond installing solar panels on their facilities by providing incentives for hospital employees to install solar panels on their homes. Electric car charging stations could provide opportunities for evening staff to charge their cars while at work.

With the heat of summer, the intensive use of popular water parks is noticeable. In view of the intensive use of electricity to power pumps at these facilities, installing solar panels on them could dramatically cut electric bills. By being grid connected production during the non-swimming season could be redistributed through the grid.

The major speakers at this year’s renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair will highlight opportunities for accelerating the renewable energy and efficiency movement. Howard Learner, Executive Director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center and the Midwest’s leading environmental policy expert, will challenge his audience to consider Electricity Game Changers which are greener and more decentralized. He asserts that “smart policies drive energy markets” and feels that we are on the cusp of changing the world “through better access, affordability and reliability, and climate change solutions.” Old patterns will give way to advancing technological innovations. The entire game will change.

Kevin Brehm and Margaret McCall from the Rocky Mountain Institute, another leader in innovative policies and practices, will elaborate further on changes in energy which can change the world. Brehm will share information on Why Utilities are Embracing Community Solar, providing motivation for more such practices. He claims that “solar has the potential to be the most important energy source in the U.S. and worldwide. McCall will provide an optimistic view of New Energy Tech Meets the Midwest, providing an overview of new small and large scale technologies that are both in place and coming.

These speakers will open the doors to recognizing exciting new directions on the immediate horizon.

Major sponsors of the Fair are the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, The Rock River Times, Northern Public Radio and the Ogle County Waste Management Department.

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