Monday, June 22, 2009

Midwest Renewable Energy Fair

The newspaper column:

This week, I am reporting from the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Energy Fair. Every year, practitioners and manufacturers of renewable energy systems from all over the country (and across the globe) come together in Custer, Wisconsin to share ideas about renewable energy.

Renewable energy, broadly defined, involves using the reoccurring and regenerative forces of Nature to power our world. Solar and Wind are the Brad and Angelina of the genre, but any element of green building, energy conservation, clean energy generation, or renewable energy advocacy is fair game at this Fair.

A tall, slender windmill announces the entry to the site. Most people come by car – after all, it’s a rural destination – but there were plenty of bicycles around and a bus stop for arranged public transportation.

White tents house make-shift classrooms where seminars and lectures on anything renewable take place throughout the three day event - over 200 sessions in all.

Exhibitors display the latest technologies in renewable energies and services with experts to answer specific questions about real world applications. Component samples, mock-ups, and ample product literature (to which an English major might raise an eyebrow and mutter “you call this literature?”) provide a dizzying avalanche of useful information for renewable newbies and pros alike.

Workshops led by pioneering experts demonstrate straw bale construction techniques and the ins and outs of erecting and operating solar energy systems.

On display at the Clean Energy Car Show are new electric vehicles, conventional vehicles converted to electric or hybrid operation, and even a solar powered bicycle.

Children can get into the act too. There’s a dedicated “Rainbow’s End” area for play and age-appropriate workshops on wind power, photosynthesis, and a host of other diverse learning activities disguised as fun and games. Kids can even assemble photon racers – or solar powered model cars – and race them.

Without a doubt, there is much more information at this fair than is possible to imbibe in a too-short period of time, even for renewable energy wonks. The best strategy at an event like this is take names and notes and follow up later. But the inevitable and necessary conversation does transpire, naturally.

The Internet is great, but face to face contact has always been, and will always be a very sustainable way to communicate. There is no equal substitute for a conversation in the flesh. Beyond the intricacies of technology and commerce, we are - after all - all human beings sharing a common planet.

For the health and well-being of humanity and the world in which we live, it is for the good of us all that people get together periodically and share ideas about how we can manifest and maintain a clean, prosperous, and peaceful living environment.

That is the spirit of this gathering.

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