Thursday, June 27, 2013

Renewable Energy Group's Message 'Fairs' Well

WUWM environmental reporter Susan Bence interviews founders and current members of the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.
We travel to central Wisconsin to learn about the history of the Midwest Renewable Energy Fair.
For decades, Wisconsinites have experimented with alternative energy sources.
Back in the 1960s and 70s, a time of heightened environmental awareness, early adopters in central Wisconsin around Stevens Point became skilled solar and wind installers.
In 1990, pooling their combined knowledge and passion, the small circle staged an “energy fair” at the Portage County fairgrounds – thinking it would likely be a “one time” event.
Instead, the Midwest Renewable Energy Association, or MREA, blossomed. Today, a new generation of passionate clean energy advocates are promoting the group's message.
That message is on display this weekend, as the MREA stages its 24th annual fair on its own grounds, hoping to raise awareness - and use - of renewable energy.
“The MREA practices what it preaches," says executive director Nick Hylla, which he believes inspires others to follow suit.
Hylla says the biggest hurdle in getting more people on board with renewable energy is showing that it's doable. So, the group's committed members constantly re-evaluate its outreach and training.
They offer primer courses, educating people on the value of a renewable energy investment and how to integrate the technology into their homes or businesses.
Their training programs also target professionals already working in the industry, looking for advancement. That includes Josh Stolzenburg, owner of North Wind Renewable Energy. It offers a wide range of alternative energy options and home-building improvements, and Stolzenburg says business is "going well."
Executive director Hylla says even if governments might not be catching on to green energy, many businesses are seizing the opportunity, recognizing clean energy as the future template.
"Clearly, clearly, fossil fuels are a limited resources…they’re gonna run out," says Bob Ramlow, one of the founders of MREA. He says if we want to maintain our current lifestyles, it's critically important to make a change, because the energy resources we are dependent on are finite.
Ramlow's wife, Marguerite, also a founder, calls for “more action, less dreaming." She says changing our energy lifestyle is an attainable goal; she says new generations are more progressive and up to the challenge.
The Midwest Renewable Energy Association fair runs through June 21-23.
Earlier this month, renewable energy was the focus of our Project Milwaukee: Power Switch, as we explored how green sources might influence Wisconsin’s future energy mix.