Renewable energy resulting from the Fair

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

Since the first Annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, we have been asked about examples of our successes. We know from our experiences, observations and discussions that our efforts have made a difference. Examples of installations appear in our weekly columns in The Rock River Times. A recent one described the installations of Klaus and Teri Hoffman.

To provide some answers to the question regarding the results of our efforts, we asked Dave Merrill to make a presentation at this year’s Fair on the range of installations he has made over the years.

Tom DeBates, a solar system installer and Fair participant, told us that he had installed a PV system at Butler Organic Farm near Malta ( Its owners had come to our farm to inquire about our installation.

Jack Berry, a long-time visitor to the Fair, mentioned that his Unitarian Church in Elgin had installed a PV system on the roof and that members are considering additional installations. He recently sent a description of what has been accomplished along with a photograph of the system. Years ago we made a presentation of actions the church could take to make a transition to a cleaner energy system.

Many individuals, finally able to make the investment, express a long standing interest in solar or wind energy. Others indicate they never really thought about a system until they either saw one, read or heard about one in a news item or talked with friends who installed one.

An informal network of interactions stimulates people to learn about and act on an idea. Stimulating that network is why we offer the Annual Fair, invest a substantial share of our budget publicizing our efforts, offer workshops at our home and community colleges and sponsor the annual solar tour which will be held on October 1. It offers the public a chance to see some installations and talk with the owners about the performance of their systems. The next hands-on PV class will be held on October 15. Buildings on the tour include our home, those of Dave Merrill, Bruce Roe and Klaus Hoffman; the Kickapoo Center and Just Goods (addresses are in the tour press release and on the IREA web site:

One of the best lists of installed systems is that of the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation which has assisted in funding installations throughout the state to create awareness in students of the potential of solar energy (

The Environmental Law and Policy Center has been an effective force in Springfield securing policy initiatives supporting renewable energy including the clean jobs bill (

While describing successful installations does stimulate others to take similar actions, it is only a small part of the picture. The installations have been financially possible as a result of declining costs and public policies that support the need to transition to cleaner energy sources. Continuation and acceleration of the change requires an informed citizenry willing to make an energy shift in their personal lives and support public policies backing renewable energy.

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